Water crisis in Tripura town

Feni river dispute fuels water shortage in border town

By Biswendu Bhattacharjee
Published: Thursday 15 September 2011


FOR the past two years 1,500-odd families in a small town of Tripura have not received a modest drinking water supply. Reason: a dispute over water withdrawal from the Feni river, the international border between India and Bangladesh.

Though the Feni passes through Sabroom, the town entirely depends on groundwater. At present, the town authority supplies 375,000 litres of water a day by extracting groundwater. This is a sharp decline from 450,000 litres two years ago. Bandan Das, a Sabroom resident, says groundwater level in the town has gone down and the authorities have cut down the supply from six hours a day in 2009 to two hours now. About 60 per cent households have installed tubewells, resulting in further drop in the groundwater.

In 1999, to meet the growing needs of the town, the Indian government signed an agreement with the Bangladeshi government to extract the Feni water for drinking water supply. The Bangladeshi government had then allowed Tripura to install two water treatment plants, each of 2.9 million litres capacity, on the Indian side of the river. But later, Bangladesh retracted.

Jitendra Chowdhury, the state’s rural development minister, says it is the legitimate right of people on the Indian side to use the Feni water. “Bangladesh’s stand has antagonised the border population,” he adds. The water sharing issue is expected to be discussed on September 6 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Dhaka.

A report by the Public Health Engineering Department of Tripura, meanwhile, warns of the high iron content in the groundwater of Sabroom. High iron in water can cause cardiac arrest and lead to coma and depression.

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