Meghalaya perceives no end to water dearth

Meghalaya boasts of itself as the abode of clouds and being in the rainiest place in the world yet water scarcity is getting severe writes Sonam S. Shah


Hovering at an altitude of 1,496 m, Shillong is a lesser known hill station nestled among the pines of Meghalaya in the North-Eastern region of India. Tall pine trees, small hillocks, zig zag roads going up and down inside the city and incessant greenery makes Shillong a unique place. Perched atop a plateau, Meghalaya is blessed with the widest range of scenic beauty imaginable.


The rolling hills, the clear blue sky, the distant horizon, the solitude, the utter tranquility, the peacefulness – craft this beautiful picturesque city to be popularly branded as Scotland of the East’.


With dazzling vistas, captivating caves, sacred groves and over 300 wild varieties of orchids, Meghalaya boasts of itself as the abode of clouds, where even the monsoons provide an exhilarating and enlivening experience of being in the rainiest place in the world, named Cherrapunjee.


But the quirk of fate is that the long-drawn-out spell of dry season in the state of Meghalaya has resulted in a water scarcity in the capital city with various localities facing a sudden drop in water supply. The scarcity of water at a time when the State is in its festive mood of post Christmas and geared up for the New Year’s celebrations has irked residents of the pine city.


The inhabitants of the city usually are not only knocked by a scarcity of LPG cylinders but they are experiencing, of late, a sudden drop in water supply.


Though this cannot be termed as a complete scarcity as of now but the reduced availability of water throughout the State has been a matter of concern for the residents of the State.


Residents have grumbled that the water supply has gone down in several localities forcing people to resort to use of ball-bearing carts to fetch water. Even in the Cantonment areas like Jhalupara, residents have been experiencing a drop in the water supply for the past few days.


With no sight of the rain, people are clueless about how to alleviate the water shortage and manage enough water to meet their daily requirements.


Incidentally, when contacted, some officials from the PHE department refused to comment saying that they were out of station, even as they refused to admit the scarcity of water in the city.


With jail road and polo’s outline experiencing scarce water supply just before the Durga Puja festival, complaints roll in this time from Nongthymmai, Laitumkhrah and parts of Mawlai where residents have alerted a drop in the supply of water.


“Water supply normally goes scarce during the winter months but it seems that the supply has shortened somewhat early this year,” said Badei Sohtun, a resident of Lapalang area.


The people face undue sufferings due to water scarcity in areas like Mawbhah and Mawprem among others.


A tenant from Motinagar, Ritashree Dutta said that water supply has gone down since the festive season. “I am scared at the sight of this drop in supply since this area is one of the worst when it comes to scarce water supply,” she said recalling how she had to depend on water carriers last year.


She is echoed by Sumitra Das, another resident of the area who expressed her surprise over this limited supply. “I would like to ask the authority as to why the water of the storage tanks is being left unused when it can meet the water requirements in this area,” she said.


The sight of water cans on ball bearing carts run by water carriers is common in Laitumkhrah, which is another locality known for its notoriety in terms of scarce water supply.


According to residents near St Edmund’s College (near the college hostel) they have to depend on these water carriers heavily in the winter months. “I don’t know why government supply has taken a dip so early this time,” said Venessa K who has rented her house to students.


Another common sight in Laitumkhrah, which has grown more into a mismanaged urban jungle full of concrete structures, is that due to scarce supply in water many houses have gone for their private borewell.


“I have suffered a humiliation to get proper water supply from the authority. But then I decided borewell is the only solution left in Laitumkhrah where everything is available except water,” said this resident of Ramakrishna Mission road.


Sensing scarcity, residents have now resorted to water management. In New Colony and Laban, the way residents recycle water can be a subject matter of liquid waste management for students as well as those organization who are into sustainable management.


In these areas it has been seen that the housewives guides their domestic help to reuse the water that has been generated after washing clothes in cleaning the home front and back besides the staircases.


The situation is grim even in Mawbhah and Mawprem areas as people have complained of water scarcity in their localities.


When contacted, an official from the State Public Health Engineering department (PHE) said that the department only supplies the water to Shillong Municipal Board in bulk and SMB should inform the department if there is any water scarcity in any areas or localities of the town.


There is no disputing the verity that nature has been more than partial in requisites of location where Shillong is concerned. Despite perennial rain, Cherrapunji, the wettest place on earth, faces an acute water shortage and the inhabitants often have to trek for miles to obtain potable water. Irrigation is also hampered due to excessive rain washing away the topsoil as a result of human encroachment into the forests. No doubt, the towering pines, gurgling mountain streams, splendid waterfalls, lakes, gorges and caverns, all of these combine to make Shillong a tourist’s delight, but what really needs to be considered and addressed at this very point of time is that one needs to actually think critically about conserving the water resources keeping in mind that the nature must not be disturbed beyond permissible limits. Otherwise the elucidation to water conservation will be tremendously intricate.