SHILLONG, April 20 - Only time would tell whether closure of a natural spring, to build a paid water dispensing booth called �water ATM,� would be a source of salvation or further agony for poor residents in Pynthorbah in the State capital here.
The water ATM was built by South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) in collaboration with Meghalaya Urban Development Authority and Pynthorbah community members.
A galaxy of dignitaries, which included Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister RC Laloo, Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh and AL Hek, Health Minister and local MLA came together to inaugurate the project today.
Dipayan Dey, president of SAFE, the implementing agency, said, the challenge before the agency now is to provide water where there is scarcity.
Elaborating about the project, he said, 400 residents in the area would be able to draw 10,000 litres of potable water daily from the booth with the help of �gender-friendly Radio-Frequency Identification Water ATM cards.�
Each family would get 10 litres of water daily, but for additional water they would be charged 50 paisa, which would go to the local durbar (traditional institution), Dey said.
However, several local residents are wondering why the natural spring had to be closed down to implement the project. �We have no source of water supply except this spring. We were getting water 24 hours a day from this spring, which has now been closed to make way for this project. We have to buy water now,� a local resident rued.
Others have also complained that they were unable to get the card issued for their families. �We have gone several times for the card, but we failed to get it despite providing requisite documents,� another resident complained.
The other aspect of the project is the large number of high-rises in the area. Several poor residents say that these high-rises have pumps which draw groundwater. �The rich don�t have to pay for their water, whereas we have to �this is unfair,� complained a resident.
Asked what would the Government do if water charges are increased arbitrarily in the future, Hek said, SAFE has fixed the price and would control it with the assistance of the local durbar.
�It is a private project. The poor residents will get water from the Government for free,� he stated.