Water crisis turns key concern
published on March 19, 2016
Guwahati: With election enthusiasm rising to fever pitch, the drinking water crisis in Assam has turned into a key poll issue.
According to the 2011 census, drinking water is available in only 55% households and only 27% houses have a source of water nearby. As per Census 2011, the availability of drinking water in households in Assam within the premises is 55%, near the household premises is 27%, and away from the household premises is 19%. Census 2011 defines the concept of ‘within the premises’ as the area of the household, and ‘near the premises’ in an urban scenario as 100m from the premises and 500m from the premises in a rural scenario. ‘Away’, in the urban scenario, is defined as beyond 100m from the household premises and in a rural area as beyond 500m.
“What is the point of living in the city if we don’t get access to safe drinking water? For close to three years, there has been no supply and we have had to rely on hand pumps,” said Arati Das, a resident of AT Road, one of the worst affected areas in the city. “I am a school teacher and I urge the political parties contesting the assembly polls to ensure that the issue of drinking water is addressed. Waterborne diseases are common where I live,” said Aparna Bhattacharjya, a school teacher from Nagaon Bengali High School. “Most people in our area are suffering from stomach ailments. The political parties should take note of this and address it. There’s no point making loud promises if they are not fulfilled,” said Eshani Das, a school student. Most victims of waterborne diseases are school children.
Though the present state government at Dispur began implementing the national flagship programmes on drinking water through the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), challenges in effective use and maintenance of existing infrastructure persist. As per the 2013-14 Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) in Assam, the percentage of households with access to any improved source of drinking water here was 87.2% as compared to 91% in India. The 2011 census shows the percentage share of households having improved source of drinking water facility at 68.6%. Dima Hasao district fares the worst with only 19.0% households with improved source of drinking water.