EOI, Darjeeling, 28 Apr 2016: The Darjeeling municipality is all set to revamp the town’s British era water distribution system under a central government project at a cost of Rs 205 crore. This is expected to solve the perennial water problem the hill town faces bringing a huge relief to its residents.
Funds for the first installment of the three phase project have already been sanctioned by the Centre under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and work is expected to start once the ongoing bidding process is completed.
According to municipality officials, the project was first taken up in 2012 by the present civic body under a central scheme. The initial cost was pegged at Rs 162 crore but the project failed to start as it failed to get the necessary financial approvals.
However, after the NDA government came to power, the state government and the Darjeeling municipality pursued the project and succeeded in getting it sanctioned. “Under the UPA government, the project failed to see the light of day. And when the NDA came to power, we took up the issue and submitted a revised detailed project report. Since the cost escalated to Rs 205 crore after the revision, the project was put under the AMRUT programme and funds sanctioned,” said Amar Singh Rai, chairman, Darjeeling municipality.
The ambitious project of the civic body will entail relaying the existing pipes through which water is distributed across town, installation of tanks in each of the 32 wards including water-meters. The project is linked to the Balason drinking water project. “In the first phase, we will purchase water pipes and Rs 39 crore has already been sanctioned for this. In the second stage, we will lay the pipes and install water tanks in all the wards under the Darjeeling municipality,” Rai said.
The central government will bear 50 per cent while the state government will have to provide 45 per cent and the Darjeeling municipality 5 per cent of the total cost. At present, water from the Balason river, located 35km from Darjeeling, is pumped to the three reservoirs situated at Senchel near Jorebungalow in three stages. This aside, water is also collected from Khang Khola and 26 other sources. But at present, just three to four sources are functional.
“Water is pumped for 13-14 hours each day from the Balason in addition to the other sources available and collected in the three reservoirs at Senchel. The water is then distributed to homes from the tanks at Rockvale and St. Paul’s School,” said the civic body chairman.
On a daily basis, Darjeeling town requires 15-20 million gallons of water. But the municipality is able to distribute only around 8-10 million gallons, according to sources in the know. Compounding problems for the municipality is not only the faulty and outdated distribution system, but leakage and illegal connections as well. Rai said all such issues are expected to be addressed after the project is completed within a time-span of three years.
“There are 25-30 per cent illegal connections and massive leakages, which cause major problems in supplying water to the public. We will also issue water-meters to households with legal water supply connections and charge them as per the readings. This way we hope to plug the loopholes,” Rai said.