For a town with a population of over 80,000, there are only five reverse osmosis (RO) plants to provide purified drinking water to residents of Kotkapura. The RO plants were installed just before the assembly elections in 2012 and the work on the sixth one, at Hari Noan road, was abandoned midway later.
By simple calculation, one RO plant is supposed to cater to the needs of nearly 16,000 people and most residents, particularly those from economically weaker sections, are left in the lurch as they cannot do not have access to expensive sources of drinking water.
An operator at an RO plant, who did not wish to be named, said, "I have nearly 350 subscribers for RO-treated water. Each of them can get 20 litre of RO water per day at a nominal charge of `90 per month."
This means roughly, there would be about 2,000 subscribers on all the five RO plants in the city.
This way, many have to rely on "unsatisfactory and insufficient" water works supply or hand pump water. Those who can afford have got their domestic RO plants while some buy it from private suppliers.
The RO plants have allegedly not been established in a uniform pattern to supply drinking water to all Kotkapura residents. "There are three RO plants on one side of the town, to the north, within a 2 km distance. One is at Quila Park, near bus stand, another about a km away near 'lakad kanda' (wood- weighing scale) in Prem Nagar and another one, even less than a km at Sikhan Wala while there is none on the south side of the town. The fourth RO plant is in the old grain market, which is in the town's centre. But these plants leave most of the areas away from the facility," said Uday Randev, president of Punjab Jagran Manch, Kotkapura.
"The eight wards, which are to the west side of the town across the railway tracks, have only one RO plant functional, which is not sufficient to cater to the needs of nearly one-third of the population of the town. There are four RO plants to cater to the needs of 15 wards of the town and only one plant for eight wards," said Rajiv Kumar, a resident of the Surgapuri area across the railway tracks.
The areas that have most economically-backward population include Ram Nagar, Dhanna Basti, Bengali Basti and Indira Colony.
"We do not go to get RO water as it is far from our place. People like me who are either small shopkeepers or have some other small business do not have much time to go and fetch RO water from the plant at Jalaleana road. The RO plant must be near to the localities," said Sunil Kumar, a resident of Dhanna Basti in the town.
Worst, the sixth RO on Hari Naon Road could not make any progress and the now instead of installing any equipment, the building once meant for RO plant is being occupied by a family of dyers.
"RO tan ji fail ho gaya. Chori ki vardatte hoti the vaha par. Bibi ji (perhaps then president of Kotkapura MC) ne hame bola vahan par theharana ko (RO had failed due to small theft incidents and madam had allowed us to take shelter in it)," said a man deployed at RO plant.
When contacted, Kotkapura SDM Harjit Singh Sandhu, the administrator of the municipal committee, Kotkapura, said he was not aware about the number of RO plants in the town or any plan to install more plants. "These were installed by the Bathinda development authority and you should talk to them for any kind of information," Sandhu said.