Guwahati Water Supply Project: Partial Commissioning Begins in Few Areas
GUWAHATI: Even though the JICA-assisted water supply project has been partially commissioned, it will still be a long time before entire Guwahati gets 24X7 water supply.
The long-pending water supply project in Guwahati assisted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has finally been partially commissioned after several delays.
Under the first phase of the commissioning, around 100 households have received house service connections in the Uzan Bazar and Chenikuthi areas, as per the Guwahati Jal Board officials.
JICA is assisting a water supply project in the North Guwahati region as well as in South-Central Guwahati. The project was initiated to ensure uninterrupted 24X7 water supply to the respective regions of the city.
“Currently the partial commissioning of the JICA project is underway and 100 households have been provided with the house service connections till now. The trial is ongoing in these households and they are currently receiving 24X7 water supply,” informed Rupjyoti Talukdar, executive engineer of Guwahati Jal Board.
He added that more households will be connected soon as part of the process.
However, the billing is yet to be put in place for these connections, said authorities as it is still in the trial period.
Officials informed that the JICA-assisted project has been completed 60 per cent till now and they have further received 700 more applications for house service connections in the relevant areas.
Further, construction of the water treatment plant (WTP) for the JICA-assisted project is also ongoing for which the work is 55 per cent complete. So currently, the authorities are taking water from the JNNURM project, for which the WTP is complete, via a grid line to supply to JICA-assisted project areas.
“The work of the distribution network is also in progress simultaneously and we hope to finish it by March 2021,” Talukdar told G Plus.
Additionally, under the partial commissioning, the project will cover areas including Uzan Bazar, Fancy Bazar, Pan Bazar, Dighalipukhuri, Chenikuthi and Chandmari.
The Northern Guwahati Water Supply Project is slated to provide 37 million litres per day (MLD) of water to North Guwahati, once completed, whereas the South Central Water Supply Project will provide 191 million litres per day (MLD) water to the South Central region.
The total project cost is estimated to be around Rs 1,450 crores. Out of this, Rs 1,426 crores is coming as a loan from JICA and the rest from the state government.
The Assam government had taken up four major water supply projects for Guwahati and the implementation work for all the four projects is ongoing simultaneously in the city with a view to provide uninterrupted 24X7 water supply to Guwahati residents. The Guwahati Jal Board will then be given the responsibility for operation and maintenance of all the four water supply projects upon their completion.
JICA is assisting the North Guwahati Water Supply Project as well as the South-Central Guwahati Water Supply Project. Further, the West Guwahati Water Supply Project is being funded by JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) while the ADB (Asian Development Bank) is funding the South East Guwahati Water Supply Project.
Sluggish pace of work
The JICA-assisted project has missed several deadlines due to the sluggish pace of work over the past few years since it began. The officials have cited reasons like delay in land acquisition and contractor issues for this.
As per authorities, the project began in 2010 but the execution work could only begin from 2012-13 owing to the logjam over land acquisition and permission issues. It was supposed to be completed in 28 months, but had been missing deadlines ever since - in 2015 and then, December 2017.
G Plus had previously reported that the project was slated to begin by the end of January 2019 which again got deferred to February - and this too, never materialised within the previously set timeframe.
Jal Board authorities further mentioned that the other reasons for the delay in completion of work included monsoon season and lack of availability of labourers.
“From April onwards, it becomes difficult to carry on the work of pipe laying and as the monsoon season sets in and it becomes the off season for us. Also the festival season proves to be challenging as we are unable to find labourers during that time. Sometimes the labourers go on leave for two days and return after 15 days,” said Talukdar.
Land acquisition and getting permission is another major impediment which is very time consuming and defers the completion of the project.
The loan period from JICA was earlier valid till 2019, which was later extended up to July 2022.
Authorities said that they are now targeting to complete the entire project by July 2022 before the completion of the loan period.
Prior to this, Hyderabad-based contractor IVRCL Pvt Ltd, which was undertaking the pipeline laying work for the distribution network for the project, went bankrupt and abandoned the work halfway. Now fresh tenders have been floated for prospective contractors to take up the work for laying the remaining portion of the distribution network.
This further pushed the completion date for the South Central Guwahati Water Supply Project.
During this year, the authorities have targeted to provide 10,000 household connections under the JICA-assisted project.
Recently, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal announced that 55,000 households will receive clean drinking water in December 2020.
According to reports, the chief minister will launch the first phase of the scheme on March 15 next.
Water crisis, a continual trouble for Guwahatians
Even though the city is located right next to the mighty Brahmaputra River, several parts of the city reel under water crisis year after year. So much so, that the residents have to depend on private water tankers to fulfil their daily water requirements - especially during the summer months.
The situation has become worse over the past few years owing to groundwater depletion.
Some of the major areas affected by water scarcity include RG Baruah Road commonly known as the Zoo Road, Christian Basti area, Hatigaon, Kahilipara and Lakhtokia among others.
Many apartment complexes have become dependent on water tankers for their everyday consumption in the wake of perennial water problems for the past several years now.
Shambhavi Mukherjee, a resident of Hatigaon, said that her apartment complex was dependent on groundwater via a well bore 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 to now buy water from private suppliers since the past few months.
Further, the residents of Christian Basti also complained of heavy water bills as a result of depleting ground water. A resident of Christian Basti said that locals living higher on the hills still use water from the natural waterfalls to meet their daily water needs.
According to locals, housing complexes situated on the Zoo Road charge around Rs 5,000 per month towards maintenance including the water bill. However, without the water bill the maintenance cost ranges anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000.
Further, more buildings and apartment complexes are being constructed in the area, raising concern about the sustainability of these apartments and the residents’ potable water needs.
As per a report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) published in 2013, the groundwater resources in greater Kamrup – Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup (Rural) districts - are still under the “Safe” category.
The annual dynamic groundwater resources as in 2009 are estimated to be 1,847.29 million cubic metres while the net annual ground water consumption is 715.97 million cubic metres of which, 43 per cent is renewed every year. But when the rise in water consumption concentrated in the urban areas is considered, the scenario seems worrisome, said an expert.
According to another CGWB report, the total “annual replenishable ground water resource” in Assam, as on March 2013, was 32.11 billion cubic meters (bcm). Out of this, the natural discharge during non-monsoon season stood at 3.21 bcm making the net annual ground water availability at 28.90 bcm. Further, the projected demand for domestic and industrial uses up to 2015 was 0.84 bcm.