Half of Diphu Public Health Engineering Department Schemes are Out of Order

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Diphu January 4: Howraghat revenue circle within Diphu subdivision is one of the most densely populated areas of the otherwise scarcely populated Karbi Anglong district. Rich agriculture belts, naturally irrigated by perennial rivers and wetlands, have helped to create a sustainable economy for the predominantly rural populations here. It i also known as the rice bowl of the hilly autonomous zone of Assam, but drinking water facility has remained a baffling predicament until today in Howraghat.

Underground water in the plains and hilly parts of Howraghat is more or less affected by impermissible amounts of fluoride, and this has made consumption of ground water hazardous for both humans and animals. The colourless threat was detected in the 1990s by Mr. A B Paul, through his solo effort, a brilliant engineer who was posted as Additional Chief Engineer of Public Health Engineering department in Diphu.

The ill equipped Assam Government’s Public Health Engineering department functioning under the administrative jurisdiction of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council could do precious little to provide safe drinking water to the people of the region.

This department having sole responsibility for providing safe drinking water to the people of the entire district has until now remained unsuccessful to cover even 20% of the population over the last 30 years, according to government statistics.

The functioning of the Public Health Engineering Urban department in Howraghat is most peculiar. Here, according to departmental data, a total 146 rural water supply schemes has been funded by the government and the work was executed by the PHE department.

Documenting Water-Related Problems

The schemes spread across Howraghat are too little to cater for the needs of the people and on top of that, 44 schemes are out of order and the construction of 27 schemes is yet to begin. There are other problems, including that the ground water in four schemes contains impermissible amounts of fluoride, and other schemes, although claimed by the department to be functional, according to end users, the schemes have numerous problems such as failed pipe lines, out of order diesel pump sets, dried up intake points and unclean germ-infested and polluted sieve methods.

Where has The Money Gone?

The depiction of drinking water supply schemes across the district is either identical or worse than Howraghat, but paying no attention to deadly issues such as fluoride by PHE has astounded the mindful section of society, although tall claims are being made by public representatives of the ruling clique and a section of departmental officials regarding installing De-fluoride water treatment plants in affected areas and procurement of surface water for human consumption. In practice, nothing concrete has been done although government funds to the tune of hundreds of crore rupees has been spent previously.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.