Andaman revives WWII wells to deal with water crisis

By Sanjib Kumar Roy
Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

-- authorities in the Andaman islands are now reviving 191 old wells, dug during World War ii in Port Blair in an attempt to check the city's mounting water crisis. The city currently receives a restricted water supply--once in three days.

Dug by the Japanese army, these wells still carry water. "Of 191 existing wells in different parts of the city, 54 have already been cleaned up and are ready to store water," says Sher Singh, chairman of the Port Blair Municipal Council (pbmc). It is also constructing 36 new wells to store rainwater.

The archipelago relies on rainwater for most of its drinking water. Every year, it receives rainfall of more than 3,000 mm for seven to eight months. But, the city's only water reservoir, the Dhanikhari dam, is capable of storing just 4.3 billion litres, which can supply the southern parts of the Andamans for 150 days a year. The current water crisis began after water level in the dam dropped drastically towards the end of 2006. pbmc officials say unusually erratic rainfall is to blame. "In August and September the rainfall was heavy. Water overflowed from the reservoir. Towards November and December, it was scanty and the reservoir was dry," says B N Malhotra, superintendent engineer of the Andaman Public Works Department.

The islands have been facing a water crisis over a decade. But "the city administration is yet to make any arrangement to store rainwater", says Malhotra. Port Blair residents blame the administration, which now plans to bring water from the nearby Rut Island, which has 12 freshwater sources.

"In fact there is no dearth of freshwater sources in the island," says Amlanjyoti Kar, senior scientist with the ministry of water resources, Andaman. Kar suggests rainwater harvesting as another feasible alternative.

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