EXACTLY a fortnight back, on June 6, a mere argument over water sharing resulted in a fracas with four persons including 24-year old Sunil Yadav being stabbed. Sunil’s father was enquiring the whereabouts of another youth, Bharat Pratap Sahu, standing near the Municipal Corporation’s community water tank in Kishorganj area in Ranchi, when Sahu in a fit of rage attacked Sunil, his mother, and two other neighbours with a knife.
“We were rushed to the hospital,” Sunil said showing five stab injuries on his body. A case under attempt to murder and other charges have been invoked against Sahu in Kotwali Police Station of Ranchi. “The incident happened due to a fracas over filling water,” said Sujata Kumari Veenapani, SP (City).
Scuffles during summers are not so uncommon in the state capital with each person desperate to hoard maximum water whenever a tanker arrives in their colony. Various other areas including Harmu Housing Colony, Hindpiri, Piska Mor, Morabadi, Kanke also reel under water shortage every year.
The water crisis in Ranchi, Jharkhand is divided in two parts: ground water depletion and the lack of water supply to the tail end through surface reservoirs. Depletion is mostly due to lack of ground water recharge, say experts. Rainfall is erratic, and rainwater, passing as run-offs, does not percolate deep enough. Deep borings in apartments and households, shrinking natural water bodies have also lowered the ground water, according to experts.
Ranchi, some five decades back, had over100 ponds and smaller water. Now, less than 40 remain. In an affidavit submitted to the court in 2017, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation submitted that 22 ponds/ lakes were identified and conservation work had commenced. It said cleaning work would be done in the “near future”.
This remains only on paper though. For instance, the Karamtoli Chowk Talab, like other ponds, in the name of beautification, are fenced with concrete and the pond is full with silt, and sediments hampering bottom discharge. The Jharkhand Ground Water Directorate, set up to control over exploitation of ground water, and replenish it, has only a limited role in assessing availability. This work can be undertaken effectively by Central Ground Water Board through aquifer mapping, the Jharkhand ground water directorate said in an affidavit to the High Court in an ongoing PIL over the water crisis.
Further, urbanization too has taken a toll on water tables. Ranchi Municipal Corporation Additional Commissioner Girja Shankar Prasad said due to ongoing concretization, cutting of trees water table is going down. “During summers, 50 tankers are deployed to supply water where there is none and where bore wells have dried up,” he said.
TBN Singh, Senior Hydrologist, CGWB Ranchi, who was transferred recently, said another conservation measure – rain water harvesting, also remains on paper. “In early 1980s, there were three reservoirs from which water was supplied to Ranchi which had a population of 1 lakh. Now the population has increased to 15 lakh, but the reservoirs remain the same,” he said.
Three dams – Kanke, Rukka, Hatia – supply water to the city. These dams have “enough water levels” to cater to the needs of the city, said Aradhana Patnaik, Secretary, Drinking Water and Sanitation Department. “But then, there are certain areas where pipes are laid, but there is no storage. So, there is a crisis in certain areas where the municipality is providing water through tankers because our pipes have not reached and even if it has reached, there is no storage. Also, illegal connections and miscreants cutting water supply are major problems that we need to tackle.”