Water crisis in Shillong: Talking Solutions by Ishana Agarwalla


By Ishana Agarwalla

SHILLONG | June 27, 2019:

With the average rainfall as high as 12,000 mm, Meghalaya is known as the wettest place on earth. People in Shillong do not have to wait for the monsoons to see rainfall. We are blessed with showers throughout the year! We receive the highest rainfall in the world, so how is it that we face acute shortage of water? Even after the monsoons arrive people in Shillong resort to using underground water. The reasons, as we found out, are many.

Potable water is supplied to the whole city by the Municipality and the  PHE. However, neither of these departments have been able to maintain a constant water supply. Most of the houses in the urban area have managed to get a connection from both the suppliers in the hope that if one fails them, they will have some support from the other. It's a precaution taken by the citizens in vain; for in most cases, both the connections run dry at the same time! Today, long winding queues of empty vessels at roadside water taps are a very common sight.

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Broken pipelines are rarely repaired on time forcing thepeople to collect water from the broken part of the pipes. Children lose out onvaluable study time as they have to wait in line to collect water after schooland then carry these heavy buckets of water back to their houses.

Of late, we have witnessed a significant rise in the number of commercial water suppliers – both the bottled variety and the jeeps with tanks attached that ply throughout the day carrying the precious and dear liquid to homes and shops alike. In fact, in some areas, these water suppliers are the only source of water! As the rains ebb, even the tankers find it difficult to maintain a regular supply because the water level of the underground water that they tap – which are streams and ponds in the higher reaches of the city, also run dry.

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The rampant use of the drilling machines to source outwater by the citizens in the urban area is another reason for the water bedrunning low.

The depletion of underground water  should serve as a serious warning  to us. We read everyday of some of the largest cities in the world with such water shortage as to warrant rationing of the same. Prominent among these are Cape Town, Uganda, rural areas of South East Asia and presently, the city of Bangalore is in the same perilous situation. There is little comfort to be found in the government projects to combat this problem because we only witness projects being started. Seldom have we seen them successfully completed and functional.

With rain water being the only sustainable course of water, we should consider rain water harvesting as a method to use our natural resources. This has been very successful in States such as Mizoram. Rain water harvesting has always been a tradition in these parts of the north east. Villagers, till date, use rain water harvesting to collect water. Though they use a very basic method of rain gutters on roofs and layered sand, rocks and coal to filter the water, this method gives them enough water to go about their day to day activities.

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With the growing population in Shillong, it is not possible to provide underground water for each  and every household hence this method of collecting water would be very resourceful and should be adopted immediately.

Just as the bio gas project was launched for generating energy, perhaps something similar can be taken up in these rural and urban development projects.

People need to be educated on different methods of harvesting rainwater. However, it is more important to spread awareness that water crisis is not the problem of the other cities and other countries; if prompt measures are not taken, our pristine and lush city will soon lose its most precious feature: Water.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Ishaana Agarwalla is a student of Christ University, Bengaluru and is currently an intern with TNT- The Northeast Today. She holds a passion for photography and Art. She can be reached at ishana.agarwalla@arts.christuniversity.in