Puri first city in the country to supply clean drinking water 24x7
On Saturday morning, Odisha housing and urban development minister Pratap Jena filled a glass with water from one of the several water fountains installed on Grand Road leading to the Jagannath Temple before drinking it. As camera flashes went off and TV news reporters swarmed around, Jena also put his mouth close to the water source and drank from it to emphasise the state government’s latest announcement of Puri becoming the first Indian city where one can “drink straight from the tap”.
While Jena exhorted everyone to drink from the taps, newspapers and TV channels in Odisha have been awash with government advertisements about the holy town becoming the first Indian city to have 24-hour safe drinking water facility like that in London and Singapore. The scheme, named Sujal, was first launched in October last year by chief minister Naveen Patnaik in a pilot mode with an aim to provide clean drinking water from taps to 1.5 million people in 15 towns of Odisha by March 2022. The deadline has now been revised to October 2023.
“While other cities in India like Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai may be providing clean drinking water, it is surely not available for entire 24 hours. Our system is fully automated to correct any anomaly in the supply of clean drinking water through taps to all households in the city. The water from taps is now ready for consumption without any more filtration,” said Odisha housing and urban development secretary G Mathivathanan.
In several neighbourhoods of Puri town, the reactions to the government claim have been a mix of incredulity and mild approval. Sabita Das, a 71-year-old woman in Puri’s Haragouri Sahi, one of the several people having 24-hour water supply lines, said the water now tastes different. “For several years, I have been drinking water from a water purifier. I somehow don’t like the taste of this water.”
Sanjib Kumar Panda in Duttatota Sahi of Puri said the water was not of great quality, while Rashmita Mallick of Mangalahat area said the water quality is now good.
Before the tap water scheme was made operational, people like Mallick and Panda in the seaside town received their drinking water from groundwater sucked up by massive pumps in the Baliapanda area. The water was lifted to overhead tanks and then chlorinated before being supplied to houses. Some drew water from their borewells or handpumps which they either boiled or filtered.
Under the Sujal scheme, the government now draws water from the Bhargavi river flowing near the town. The water is then channelised to a reservoir and then sent to a treatment plant at Samang. There, it goes through several processes including chlorination before being sent through a network of pipes to 250,000 people. While the water demand of Puri town is about 32-34 million litres per day, the plant purifies 42 million litres.
Experts say that to supply water that can be had straight from the tap anywhere in India, the water quality has to adhere to at least 30-odd parameters of IS 10500 of BIS. “If any parameter exceeds the limit, the water is considered unfit for human consumption...,” said Dr Bharat Sharma, senior researcher at New Delhi’s International Water Management Institute.
PK Swain, managing director of Water Supply Corporation of Odisha, a government company looking after operation and maintenance of water supply in the state, said the water that is now being supplied conforms to ISO 10500 specifications.