Hill first step on water supply cure

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

File picture of Darjeeling town

Darjeeling, July 3: The Darjeeling municipality has signed a memorandum of agreement with the state government to revamp the drinking water distribution in the civic area.

The Rs 192-crore project will be implemented once the Centre gives its nod for the funds.

Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of the Darjeeling municipality, said according to the memorandum of agreement signed with the state urban development department in Calcutta recently, the Centre would be approached to provide 80 per cent of the funds for the project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

According to the project report, the municipality would construct 30 water tanks to cover all 32 municipality wards of Darjeeling.

“The project also entails setting up of 14 pumping stations, relaying the entire water pipe line network and introducing water meters both for commercial and domestic purposes,” Rai said.

“According to the agreement, the state government will give 15 per cent of the grant, while five per cent of the total cost will be borne by the Darjeeling municipality. The state government will approach the Centre for the remaining 80 per cent of the funds,” Rai said.

“The ground work has been done and the state government is looking at getting funds under the urban integrated development scheme for small and medium towns. This scheme falls under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The detailed project report has already been finalised,” Rai added.

The civic body has decided to streamline the Darjeeling water distribution system as it is currently in a complete mess.

The present water supply network was laid in the 1930s and 1940s and has become haphazard over years with the addition of new connections. Moreover, there are no metres for both private and commercial buildings at present.

“We are of the opinion that almost 40 per cent of the water lines in the town are illegal. Once the system is revamped, we are confident there will be no illegal connections in the town. A proper system would also ensure that water will flow evenly to all consumers,” Rai said.

At the moment, there are complaints that during summer, some houses get water almost all day, while the supply is available to others only once a week.

The civic body is taking the initiative to revamp the distribution network at a time the Balasun drinking water project is nearing completion.

The Rs 55.86-crore Balasun project was first mooted in the early 1990s to rid Darjeeling of its perennial water scarcity.

The foundation of the project was laid on February 19, 2006, and the commissioning was delayed because of several factors.

The state’s public health engineering department, which is supervising the scheme, had earlier cited political instability in the hills and the failure to obtain a no-objection certificate from the army to lay pipes in the military areas of Jalapahar and Kattapahar in Darjeeling as reasons for the delay.

“The army has already given its permission to lay water pipes in its area. There is a slight modification and pipes will now be laid through the Alubari road, instead of the road leading to the army cantonment at Jalapahar. The work is currently on and the project should be completed within a few months,” said Rai.

The Balasun project has been envisaged to supply two million gallons of water a day to Darjeeling from the Balasun river through two pumping stations.

The project is supposed to ensure the supply for 16 hours a day. The Balasun water will be first pumped to two lakes at Senchel, from where it will flow to three reservoirs, two in St Paul’s area and one at Rockville.

Of the three reservoirs, two are already part of the present distribution system. The third one is being built in St Paul’s area.

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