Defying gravity

Problem: Terrain forbids water supply systems that work in plains; Status: Water crisis in peak season every year; Challenge: Develop decentralised water supply systems

Published: Thursday 30 September 2004

Defying gravity

When Darjeeling's population increased, a third lake with a capacity of 65.25 million litres was constructed by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) in 1981. But due to faulty construction, it lies unused.

Every year new schemes are floated to augment supply, but fail to take off. The Balasun river project, proposed 12 years ago, is one such scheme. "As per the plan, water from Balasun river had to be pumped up in three phases. PHED conducted a survey and the scheme was forwarded to the West Bengal government. The project was then estimated to cost Rs 50 crore. The World Bank showed interest, but till date the scheme is only on paper," says D T Tamlong, principal secretary, DGHC. The reason, say residents, is that the West Bengal government refused to be the project's guarantor.

DGHC, on the other hand, vouches to be proactive. "We realised that the municipality was unable to meet the water demand, so we have taken control of the two lakes [from the Darjeeling municipality], up till the Ghoom filtration point. The distribution still remains with the municipality," says Tamlong.

How this demarcation will solve Darjeeling's water crisis, is anybody's guess: (see illustration)

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