Haflong, April 8, 2020:
For residents of Haflong in Assam’s Dima Hasao district, the 21-day lockdown period has been characterized by water shortage, owing to the extended dry season. Now, with the entire country staying indoors and facing different kinds of difficulties, the residents in many parts of the hill district also have to contend with the added inconvenience of insufficient water for their daily activities. Locals have now revealed to Inside Northeast that there is more to this than meets the eye.
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This crippling crisis has emerged at a time when the World Health Organization (WHO) is instructing all to wash their hands frequently. In the midst of the crisis, the PHE (Public Health Engineering) has hired a few vehicles and is providing two buckets of water per person person for three days.
A Public Health Engineering (PHE) department Engineer recently told Inside Northeast that there is no water in the sources, so they are “helpless” to deliver water to the public. “The sources have dried and as such, we are in a spot of bother. There is no supply. We are now delivering water to the people. We cannot pump adequate water as it dries up”, he told us.
Shedding some light on this very sensitive issue, Member of Council and social activist Daniel Langthasa says, “Water shortage problem has always been there in the hill area. This time,the situation has been compounded as the dry season is a bit longer this time, and people are having to deal with the problem of insufficient water/ The water repositories nearby have been compromised due to river-mining.”
Langthasa further informed us that river-mining of rocks has become a rampant in the area and is going on in the rivers in Dima Hasao such as Jatinga. “The rocks are almost over and are sent all over, even to faraway places such as Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Because the stones are gone, the streams where we collected water have turned into big rivers because there are no stones and there is no retention”, Langthasa further informed.
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Now, an informal labour market has sprang up in the mining areas in the hills, where the educated-unemployment remains one of the biggest issues. “The public of those areas are okay with mining despite the environmental degradation and far-reaching consequences, because they are employed in collecting stones and in crushing machines”, he said.
“They do not understand the consequences on nature and it has become an informal source of employment The water crisis is big this time. Now, might be the time to raise the issue”, Daniel further informed us.
Inside Northeast correspondent Mahmadul Hussan Barbhuiya, queried why the department in question has failed in securing a water supply for the people of the hill district. “As per Government schemes, crores of Rupees are allocated to the PHE department of Dima Hasao, but why the sources are not maintained is a big question of the hour?”, he queried.
However, there is reason to believe that the employees of the department, having not received salaries for 10 months, might be feeling suffering a lack of motivation, as suggested by Daniel Langthasa.
At the same time, there are rising concerns in Dima Hasao that if the dreaded coronavirus does spread its tentacles to the hill district, the people will be gravely endangered as they will have no water to wash themselves with. Now, the people wait for a miracle and perhaps a spell or two of rain to deliver them from their woes.
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