That governments care little about addressing some of the most basic needs of the citizens is borne out by the appalling execution of the much-hyped mega water supply project in State capital Guwahati. The abysmally slow and corruption-riddled implementation exemplifies how major projects are converted into the proverbial milch cow for the corrupt officialdom. Indeed, it is a blot of successive governments that a reliable water supply network – a sine qua non for any modern metropolis – continues to elude the residents of the capital city despite the project having been started over a decade back. Completion of the project was also a poll plank for the ruling BJP-led dispensation in the last Assembly election five years back but it has done precious little to honour its words. The ongoing lean season with little rainfall has compounded the woes of the citizens, with people compelled to buy water from private parties at exorbitant rates. This, together with growing and indiscriminate extraction of groundwater by unscrupulous elements, has made meeting the daily water requirement a harrowing ordeal for a large segment of the citizens.
While the Government should expedite completion of the water supply project within the revised deadline, another imperative is to put in place a judicious water-use policy. Assam happens to be at the bottom of the list of States having a water supply network, with a meagre 10% of its populace having access to piped water supply. Given the deplorable status of water supply in the State capital itself, even this figure seems exaggerated. The people’s water woes have intensified with erratic rainfall in recent years and with groundwater levels plummeting. This pathetic situation exemplifies our inability to harness resources that are available in abundance. With the perennial Brahmaputra flowing right through the State, putting in place an effective water supply system should not have been a Herculean task. As for seamless implementation of infrastructure projects in the city and elsewhere, the authorities would do well to go about in a planned manner, taking into factors that plague implementation, and ensuring the desired level of coordination among the various departments and agencies. Often, it is the appalling lack of coordination that prevents time-bound execution of projects besides subjecting the people to serious inconvenience. What is also baffling is that the rainless winter months are rarely put to good use for project implementation despite the fact that the prolonged rainy season invariably hinders work progress. As for addressing the city’s plummeting groundwater levels, the spurt in indiscriminate deep-boring exercises must be checked. But the government authorities seem to be blissfully unaware of the disturbing situation – something borne out by the rampant extraction of groundwater across the city, with many doing it for commercial purposes. Apart from the urgent need to stop illegal as well as unsustainable large-scale extraction of groundwater, the authorities would do well to conduct periodical surveys on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of groundwater.