BJP’s 2016 Poll Promise of 24 X 7 Water Supply Remains Unfulfilled

Wednesday, 12 August 2020


BJP’s 2016 Poll Promise of 24 X 7 Water Supply Remains Unfulfilled

Saumya Mishra | June 27, 2020 13:12 hrs

As Assam is battling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on one hand, the state is also slowly gearing up to prepare for the upcoming 2021 assembly elections. 

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) already kick-starting its election campaigning in the state, the political mood is also gradually setting in.  

In the run up to the 2021 assembly polls, we take a look back at some of the promises made by the BJP in 2016 before being elected to power in the state. The BJP-led government in Assam came to power in 2016 with the BJP winning 60 seats out of the 126-member assembly.    

Prior to the last state polls, the saffron party had released a ‘vision document’ or a manifesto of sorts which stated their plan of action for Assam’s development in various sectors over the next five years.   

“Through this vision cum action document, we wish to lay out a threadbare approach towards safeguarding the culture and identity of Assam, developing it as one of the most developed states in the country visualising it as ‘Xarvasreshtha Axom’,” stated the document. 

Among many other issues, the party had elaborated on the need for drinking water management in the state. Drinking water has been one of the perennial problems for the residents of the state and especially for Guwahatians. 

The BJP’s vision document mentioned “providing clean and safe drinking water to all households in Assam” and “providing 24 hours urban water supply facilities.”   
However, the party has failed to deliver on its poll promise of providing water even after five years.     

Residents suffer as water projects get delayed

Even as the mighty Brahmaputra River flows through the state, several localities face water scarcity, especially during the summer months.   

To solve the water woes of the city, the Assam government had undertaken four ambitious water supply projects for Guwahati with the objective to provide uninterrupted 24X7 water supply to residents. The implementation work for all the four projects has been ongoing simultaneously in the city.  

However, all four projects have missed their deadlines several times and have faced delays due to several reasons. These four projects include Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-assisted North Guwahati Water Supply Project as well as the South-Central Guwahati Water Supply Project, West Guwahati Water Supply Project funded by JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) while ADB (Asian Development Bank) is funding the South East Guwahati Water Supply Project.

On completion of the projects, the Guwahati Jal Board will be given the responsibility for operation and maintenance of all four projects. 

The West Guwahati Water Supply Project initially began in 2009 and was supposed to be completed within a period of 30 months, but it has been delayed multiple times since then. The project, which will benefit 30,000 households, is now slated to be completed by December 2020.

Similarly, the South East Guwahati Water Supply Project began in August 2016 and the pace of work for this project too, has been sluggish.  

On the other hand, the JICA-assisted North, and South-Central Guwahati water supply project began in 2010 but the execution work could only begin from 2012-13 owing to the logjam over land acquisition and permission issues, as per officials. The authorities have now targeted to complete the entire project by July 2022. 

“Even though there has been some impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the work for the JICA-assisted project is now ongoing in full swing and by November this year we will be able to provide 5,000 house service connections,” Rupjyoti Talukdar, executive engineer of Guwahati Jal Board told G Plus.   

Officials have cited several reasons for the deferment such as delay in obtaining permission for excavation, delay in approvals from various departments among others. Further, onset of monsoon, lack of availability of labourers and hurdles in land acquisition also compounded the problem, said authorities. 

With the water supply being an issue of prolonged suffering for the residents of Guwahati as well as Assam, several parts of the city have been reeling under water crisis year after year.

A resident of Christian Basti told G Plus that he has been purchasing water from private water tankers to fulfil his family’s daily water requirements for the past 8-9 years. 

Further, Shambhavi Mukherjee, a resident of Hatigaon, said that her apartment complex was dependent on groundwater via a bore-well for the past 12 years since the apartment was constructed. 

“But the level of water started declining slowly over the years and now we have almost run out of water for the 20 flats in the apartment building,” she informed adding that the residents of the building complex are finding it very difficult to arrange for water and have been buying water from private suppliers since the past few months.

The poll promise of solving the water issues for the city made a comeback in April 2019 when the present BJP Member of Parliament (MP) from Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency, Queen Ojha, was campaigning for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.   

During the campaigning period, she had promised to solve the water woes for Guwahati city within a year on a priority basis, if she got elected. 

No regulation on groundwater usage 

Another promise or point of action in the BJP’s vision document aimed at improving the groundwater level. The document mentioned, “Regulating bore-well drilling in urban areas till the water table attains the desired elevation.”  

However, there is currently no mechanism in place to check for indiscriminate usage of underground water. Even though the state government had made it mandatory in 2018 for individuals to obtain permission from the Guwahati Jal Board to undertake deep tube well boring, it is currently not being implemented, informed authorities. This leads to rampant unregulated extraction of underground water in the city which, in turn, results in depletion of the groundwater level. 

In order to check exploitation of underground water, the Assam government had made it compulsory for commercial establishments, individuals, builders as well as flat owners to take permission from government authorities before extracting ground water.     

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had previously directed the Guwahati Development Department (GDD) to make the necessary amendments in the provisions of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Act in order to make it mandatory for residents to take permission before undertaking deep tube well boring in the city.                           

G Plus spoke to Guwahati Jal Board - the authority responsible for regulating and giving permission for water boring. However, the Jal Board officials said that currently people do not take permission before undertaking boring work.    

“There is a mandate to take permission from us for drilling of borewells but we have not enforced it sternly because the government has not been able to supply water to every household presently. When the water supply scheme is commissioned in a full-fledged manner, then we will start enforcing the rule,” Rupjyoti Talukdar, executive engineer at Guwahati Jal Board told G Plus. 

With the residents facing trouble on account of water supply continually and with the previous governments being able to achieve little success in this sector, it remains to be seen as to when the water supply projects will see the light of the day. 

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