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Dry spell in the city of lakes

By Sushmita Dutta | Last Updated: Monday, July 27, 2009 - 21:20
Sushmita Dutta
Sushi's Musings

As a growing up child when I just began to understand the world, I was told that I live in a city nicknamed “the city lakes”. Why, I used to wonder. Then, one fine day, I took a trip with my friends to the magnificent lakes of my city.

They were not only huge and amazing, these lakes also provide water for the entire city of Bhopal, I was told. When it rains in Bhopal, the water of these lakes rises up to give a view similar to the sea-shore of Mumbai. So when a bridge was built over the lakes, it was aptly called ‘the Marine Drive of Bhopal’.

It was like a beautiful painting on the canvas. The people of Bhopal were very proud of their lakes- their life savers. Even in 2002, when a huge amount of water leaked through a dam, the lake supplied water to quench the city’s thirst.

But circa 2009, the canvas looks bleak and dry. This is not 1984, but the city has been struck by another tragedy- one that will impact our lives unlike anything else. The scarcity of rains has led to the drying up of lakes, the main water supplier of the city. But Bhopal is not the only city to face this threat; entire Madhya Pradesh is gripped by the water crisis.

The crisis all over Madhya Pradesh has become grim and has spiralled out of control. People have been forced to buy water tankers to fulfil their daily needs. At some places people have turned violent for the ultimate requirement of life-‘water’.

The Kolar Dam and the dried-up Upper Lake are the only life saviours of the city- providing the nectar of life. If the rain God doesn’t smile soon, the situation will only get worse. But is one year’s rainfall shortage the only reason for the city’s deteriorating scenario? No, mismanagement of our water resources when in abundance, and its wrong distribution is a serious cause of what Bhopal is going through today.

But it is not just the government’s prerogative to manage our resources; it is an equal responsibility of all citizens to take care. Someone has said that the next war might just be fought over water. If we continue misusing water, the quote just might come true. How many of us really take care of how we utilise the water that comes to our homes? How many of us even realise the fact that, when abundant, we should conserve water?

This became quite evident last year in August, inspite of rains, the lakes were not getting filled up. Farming activities have led to heavy silting of the stream that ends in the lake, thereby restricting its flow into the lake.

It is thus a case of supply unable to meet the demand. The water bodies in Bhopal are fast depleting, but are not being filled up at the same pace. Forty one of the 50 districts are facing drought like situation. Hand-pumps in the rural areas have gone dry and most households are dependent on the tankers to ferry water, at a heavy price.

In a recent assessment in its World Water Development Report, United Nations had warned that the water reserves are under threat on account of fast industrialisation, and changing living standards and diets of the human race. Clearly, it seems the warning went unheeded.

Even though the water problem was staring it in its face since the last year, the government of Madhya Pradesh just sat over it and let it grow into a gigantic monster that seems untameable now. The government has still not taken any concrete steps to manage the water supply and bring life back to normal. The government must not only look into this year’s threat, but take steps for a secure future. Otherwise a time will then come when even if the government wishes to do something it will be handicapped, there might be no water to solve the issue of water!

As the summer sun scorches the cities of Madhya Pradesh, people are waiting in long queues to get their share of water. The local administration of Bhopal has at least woken up, and has taken a concrete step: the Additional SP of Bhopal, Ruchi Srivastava says “We have attached over 100 home guards with the municipal corporation and they will oversee water distribution”. The authorities have resorted to police help while distributing water, so that there are no untoward incidents and the distribution is fair.

“There are around 225 police personnel deployed all over the city, who escort the water tankers to ensure that no fight takes place and people do not waste water. We ensure that the locals form a queue to fetch water,” says Raja Ram Vishwakarma, a police official in Bhopal says. According to Hasib Ansari, in-charge Water Supply Wing of Bhopal Municipal Corporation, dispute over water distribution among civilians had become a tricky affair and the officials sought assistance of the police.

The Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has assured that everything is being done to douse this fire, and that the Narmada river will be brought to Bhopal soon. Let’s cross our fingers that the river reaches the city soon and quenches the thirst of the city of lakes.

The common men of Bhopal have also started doing their bit to overcome the crisis. A unique way was seen in the Dhar district which indicates at the pitiful condition: people donated blood to buy tankers of water and distributed them among the needy.

Everyone has to realise that we can’t survive without this basic necessity- water. So let’s pitch in for our own sake and for the sake of the human race on earth. Let’s conserve water so that we don’t meet the bleak and grim scenario that waits for us in the future. Our governments need to wake up now and do everything possible to save the country. At last let us also join the authorities in praying to the rain god to shower enough rains for all to survive and flourish.

First Published: Monday, July 27, 2009 - 21:20

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