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Water crisis forces KMC to lift ban on tube wells

KOLKATA: With filtered water supply from Garden Reach falling drastically, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has withdrawn its ban on
sinking tube wells to tide over the ongoing water scarcity that has compounded the discomfort level this summer.

The ban had been imposed in 2007 to prevent the depletion of groundwater in areas where it is the sole source of water for lakhs of residents. In a major policy shift, the civic authorities now plan to allow residents of these areas to instal hand tube wells.

The decision came in view of the acute water crisis the city is facing. In fact, water scarcity in large parts of south Kolkata deepened from Friday after a motor pump at Garden Reach water treatment plant's intake jetty became defunct. Earlier, water supply from this plant got hampered after a 62-inch main pipe got breached due to digging.

The KMC water supply department has now decided to sanction 200 tube wells in Behala, Tollygunge and Jadavpur. This apart, the civic authorities instructed the water supply department to sink big-diar tube wells in areas where drinking water is scarce.

According to sources in the KMC water supply department, 35 big-diar tube wells would be sunk in added areas such as Wattgunge, Behala and Jadavpur. A KMC estimate revealed that besides 210 million gallon filtered water from Palta waterworks and 95 million gallon from Garden Reach waterworks, KMC supplies 35 million gallon through its big-diar tube wells.

The ban had been imposed after separate findings by the Central Groundwater Board and the KMC water supply department that the groundwater level had depleted to a great extent in areas where water was being regularly drawn by tube wells.

The civic body had earlier promised to increase the supply of filtered water by 2008 to these areas. Accordingly, 98 big-diar tube wells had been sanctioned in these areas, which was later cancelled. Obviously, the KMC had drawn the citizens' flak when it failed to meet its promise of supplying adequate filtered water and yet, continued with the ban on sinking tube wells.

However, KMC announced that no permission would be granted to sink tube wells in areas like Cossipore, Dum Dum, Garden Reach, Behala, Tollygunge and Jadavpur but more filtered water would be supplied to them from Palta and Garden Reach waterworks. The civic body also sanctioned Rs 36 crore to construct a 15 million gallon water treatment plant at Garden Reach and Rs 105 crore to refurbish the main water pipe that carries filtered water from Palta Waterworks to Tallah pumping station. But construction of the 15 mg plant at Garden Reach is way behind schedule while the ambitious pipeline project at Palta is yet to take off.

However, the scene changed drastically this summer as lakhs of residents in Garden Reach, Behala, Bansdroni, Ranikuthi (Tollygunge) and Jadavpur complained of acute shortage of drinking water. Residents along large stretches of Eastern Metropolitan Bypass accused the civic body of sitting on the proposed Rs 100-crore water treatment plant project at Dhapa which would have supplied 45 million gallons a day.

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