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HT Spotlight: Water aplenty, but taps run dry in Panchkula

The Kaushalya conundrum: The dam, which supplies nearly 18 cusecs to the city, dries up during the summers when the demand for water hits the peak.

punjab Updated: Apr 25, 2018 13:00 IST
Yuvraj Kaushal
Yuvraj Kaushal
Hindustan Times, Panchkula
Water aplenty,taps run dry,Panchkula
Locals queue up for drinking water at Gandhi Colony near Bhainsa Tibba village in Panchkula. (Sant Arora/HT)

On the face of it, all is well with the water situation in Panchkula. It’s arguably the only city in the region where supply outstrips the demand . The city receives 49 millions of gallons (MGD) a day though it needs only 43.5 MGD. What’s more, the supply will further surge once the city receives 3 MGD of water from Phase 5 and 6 of the Kajauli waterworks.

But the situation on the ground doesn’t reflect this bounty. Many residents are already complaining of either water shortage or low water pressure. Ashok Kumar, a resident of Sector 21, groused, “Every year we hear tall claims that there will be no water shortage during summers, but come summers and the taps go dry.”

The reason is that Kaushalya dam, which contributes 11 MGD to this supply, dries up during the summer, leaving the city with 38 MGD and a shortfall of 5.5 MGD. With Kajauli waterworks project getting delayed by a couple of months, water shortage seems imminent.

But Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), which is currently supplying 22 MGDs a day to Panchkula, insists that the township is getting enough water. “The peak demand in the city is 67.45 cusecs, while our water supply to Panchkula is about 76 cusecs from 193 tubewells, Bhakra and Kaushalya dam. We have dug up more tubewells to make up for any shortfall in water,’’ said a senior official.

It was in 1983, that Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana signed an agreement, wherein it was decided that water from Bhakra would be supplied to Mohali, Chandigarh, Chandimandir and Panchkula through the Kajauli waterworks. However, with the phase 4 and 5 of Kajauli waterworks getting delayed, Panchkula is yet to gets its share of 3 MGD.

The summer is here and the taps are already beginning to run dry. Water doesn’t reach the first and the second floors in various sectors. Sectors 23 to 31 are the worst hit. Lakshay Bansal, a resident of Sector 12A, griped, “The authorities have no long-term plan. They only wake up in summer. Otherwise, they don’t bother about water scarcity in the city.”

HUDA officials, however, maintained that this is not the case. “There are 11 waterworks that feed the city besides overhead tanks in various sectors and underground boosting stations,” said an official.

As the city adds to its population, the demand for water is also growing rapidly. In the last six years alone, it has increased by over 60%, from 40 cusecs in 2012 to 67.45 cusecs this year.

Water wastage

It’s against this backdrop that any wastage of water hurts a lot. Officials claim that a minuscule 5% of the water (4 cusecs) supply gets leaked due to old and rusty pipes though people on the ground say it is much more.

An official said residents also add to water wastage, especially during the summer by washing their cars or letting their gardens overflow. To check this irresponsible behaviour, the Municipal Corporation (MC) has decided to impose a ban on the watering of lawns and washing of cars and courtyards from 5.30 am to 8.30 am. Violators will be fined a sum of Rs 2,000.

Power cuts to blame for shortage

Residents also blame frequent power outages for water shortage. Rakesh Aggarwal, president of Sector 12 Resident Welfare Association, said, “The water problem gets more severe due to frequent power cuts to tubewell lines.”

HUDA officials attributed these cuts to the Electricity Department carrying out repair work on the power lines. “This results in long-duration power cuts. In the absence of electricity, water supply also gets hit,” admitted an official.

The dry Kaushalya dam

The nub of Panchkula’s water shortage lies to its north in the Kaushalya river. Kaushalya dam was built at a cost of Rs 217 crore to alleviate the water woes of this planned city, but it goes dry every summer. Though the mercury is yet to hit a high, water level in the dam has already started falling and experts say it will dry up in a matter of days, thus bringing to a naught the 18 cusecs of water it supplies at present.

“It’s an annual affair, the water level goes down every summer and the situation improves after showers,’’ said superintendent engineer Sanjiv Chopra.

Increasingly, experts have started questioning the logic of damming the Kaushalya river. Though sanctioned by the Irrigation Department in 2005, work on the dam started only in 2008. Its dimensions were also tweaked several times. The width of the dam’s wall was increased from 12 to 30 metres, thereby increasing the construction cost from Rs 118 crore to Rs 180 crore. Later, HUDA spent Rs 23 crore on laying a pipeline from the dam to Panchkula. However, the project has failed to serve the purpose of supplying water to the city when it needs it the most.

HUDA superintendent engineer Sanjiv Chopra, however, continues to insist that the city has sufficient sources to supply adequate water. “Even if water supply from the Kaushalya dam gets exhausted, we have enough tubewells in the city to meet the rising demand. We will run them for longer hours to ensure that residents don’t suffer.”

First Published: Apr 25, 2018 12:58 IST