Though it's just the beginning of summer season, residents of the erstwhile royal city of Patiala, it seems are set to face water shortage this year too.
The repeated claims of the Patiala municipal corporation and state government, over the years, have proved hollow. They have failed to provide this most important amenity to residents of "city of gardens".
Such was the disbelief the civic body has supposedly created in the minds of the city residents in the recent past that the many middle-class and well-to-do families started digging their own submersible pumps to meet their water needs, though each unit cost Rs. 30,000.
For the poor and lower middle-class families there is no option but to keep faith in the claims of the authorities and wait endlessly before the water tap.
When in the entire country, especially in Punjab, there is hue and cry over the use of ground water for drinking purpose because of presence of heavy metals in this part of the region, Patiala residents are compelled to use this water as the authorities concerned have failed to provide an alternative in the past five decades.
Tubewells lying non-functional
Ground water is the only source of water supply to the city residents and the civic body had installed tubewells in different parts of the city to meet the demand. Water taken out through pumps is supplied to households after chlorination.
For the entire city, though the corporation has installed 135 tubewells, which, on paper, seem enough to cater to the needs of the city, but all of these do not function and only around 100 tubewells are functional at a given time. The remaining have been rendered useless for want of repair or due to old age and other reasons. The operation of these tubewells has been given to a private contractor, who has reportedly expressed his inability to run them citing "non-cooperative" attitude of the civic body.
The non-serious attitude of the civic body can be gauged from the fact that its plan to install eight new tubewells is hanging fire even the process was started six months back.
On one reason or the other, tenders for these tubewells were cancelled thrice and fresh tenders have been invited again.
Even if tenders are allotted for new tubewells today, it would take another two months to accomplish the task and the summer season will be over by then. The plans of the sewerage board to install nine other pumps have also not materialised in the past one year.
The water supply pipelines laid in the old city areas are more than 90-year-old and quite often these choke, bringing down the water pressure due to which sufficient supply does not reach residents. The civic body, which is reeling under financial crisis, has failed to replace supply lines in recent years.
Lack of civic sense adds to the problem
It's not that the city does not have adequate water. The civic body pumps out water 15% more than the daily requirement of residents, but it's the wastage of water, which leads to the shortage.
As per of the water supply department, they accept it as a norm that 20% of the total water gets wasted in every city, but in Patiala 37-40% of the total water supply is wasted by citizens, especially in summers.
"There are areas in the walled city, where people use tap water as an alarm to wake up in the morning because they never turn it off. Owing to the culture of kitchen garden, even well-off people waste water," SDO, water supply, Patiala municipal corporation, Suresh Kumar said.
"We even keep strong vigil over the wastage of water, but there has been no improvement in the situation due to lack of civic sense," he added.
The decision of the state government not to issue water bills to houses built on less than 125 square yard is another reason behind the wastage, as the owners of these houses do not value water, which they get for free.
Water table depleting at alarming level
With the entire water supply depending on the ground water and citizens opting to install their own submersible pumps and tubewells, water table in the city and surrounding areas has come down drastically, especially in the past one decade.
The water level, which was around 110 feet in 1998, has now reached the average level of around 200 feet and each year it is going down by around 2-3 feet.
As per figures collected from the civic body, there were only few hundred submersible pumps in the city some years ago. Now, there are around 20,000 pumps in the city that has 50,000 households. Such heavy pressure on ground water is a cause for concern.
Use of Tullu pumps goes unchecked
The unhealthy practice of fetching water by using Tullu pumps continues unabated in the city. Owing to the use of pumps, residents who cannot afford such a facility have to suffer.
Residents who have installed Tullu pumps justified their action, stating that they get water from the MC at a very low pressure and have to face difficulty in meeting water requirement for domestic purposes.
These pumps, however, have aggravated the problem of water scarcity for residents who depend solely on routine supply. According to a survey, 20,000 households in the city are using Tullu pumps. However, the officials concerned have no answer to the question that why municipal authorities are reluctant to take action against those violating civic norms.
Canal water supply scheme in limbo
At times, experts have felt that tubewells alone can never solve the problem of water shortage in Patiala and keeping this aspect in mind the state government has proposed a canal-based water treatment plant worth Rs. 176 crore for the city.
The mega project is to be set up in two parts to supply treated canal water, which will be drawn from the Bhakra Main Line crossing that originates from Nangal dam and passes from the boundaries of Patiala city.
In the first phase, the treatment plant would be set up in Rajindra Lake of the city at a cost of Rs. 36 crore, which would cater to water needs of around 2.5 lakh population of the city residing in the walled and old areas located across the railway line.
In Rajindra Lake, which is spread over 13 acres, 5 acres land will be used to install equipment and construct ponds for the plant.
The second part of the project would be set up at Jassowal village, 7 km from Patiala city, by using around 30 acres of land and spending Rs. 135 crore.
The project would be set up keeping in view the population of the city 30 years down the line. The plant is supposed to supply water to a population of five lakh.
For both projects, government will use the Patiala city's share of 5 cusecs of water, which, as of now, goes to Haryana since Patiala is not having any facility to use canal water.
The project report is, however, is stuck in the routine functioning of the state government and the civic body and the Patiala residents are compelled to use the ground water.
Total population: Nearly 4.5 lakh
Total number of households: 50,000
Minimum compulsory water availability per capita: 136 litre (for washing, drinking and other purpose)
Compulsory availability for the city as per norms: 60 million litres per day (MLD)
Availability at present: 70 MLD
Wastage: Nearly 16 MLD per day; increases in summers
Total number of tubewells: 130
Areas where shortage is quite common: Almost all areas in the walled city, Bhindi Wali Gali, Kila Chowk Area, B-tank area, Khalsa Mohalla, Tripuri, Badugarwasti, Raghomajra, Sanauri Adda, Sanjay Colony, Rajura Colony, Bishan Nagar, Guru Nanak Nagar, Jhujjar Nagar, Mathura Colony, DLF Colony, Tassajalpura and coming up outer colonies.