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Locals forced to drink contaminated water

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In Picture: An Abandoned drinking water tank in Prithivinagar, Jhapa (left) and an under-construction water tank Sapahi, Dhanusha (right).

Jhapa, May 6, 2016: Locals in Prithvinagar, Jhapa have no choice but to rely on poor quality drinking water. Water they pump from tube well and well contains higher level of arsenic but still they have no choice other than to drink it.

Twenty four years ago, an ambitious water project was closed after the water it supplied was found impure to drink. After the project failed to serve its purpose, locals had expected that the government would think of some alternative to it. However, even after more than two decades, the government has failed to deliver them a basic human necessity.

“24 years ago the only drinking water project in the area was closed after the water it supplied was found to be undrinkable. It was a huge dejection for the locals and gross negligence on the part of concerned authorities. That directly played with the health and life of the locals,” said Laxmi Prasad Mishra, a school teacher in Prithivinagar. “The project was closed and we expected that the government would work out alternative for delivering safe drinking water for us. But, nothing has been done so far,” he lamented.

According to him, very high level of arsenic is found water sources around the locality and that the locals are forced to drink the same water. “We have no choice but to drink water with higher levels of arsenic as the government continues to neglect our plight,” he added.

In Sombare VCD of Prithivinagar, overhead water and other infrastructure were being constructed for delivering safe drinking water to the locality. However, the project grounded after almost 20 percent of budget was spent due to protests from the locals. The reason behind the protest was the same – high level of arsenic was found in this water project also and it was useless for them.

“The water source used by the project contained higher level of arsenic. Consumers group had to protest against it after they came to know about it,” said Mishra. Along with that Mishra added that the project was drawn intro controversy following reports of financial irregularities. The project was being built at an estimated cost of Rs 70 million.

Locals in Prithivinagar and other parts of Jhapa has been facing acute drinking water crisis since long. They have even taken to street to press for the issue time and again. “People here have several times tried to draw the attention of the concerned authorities for availing drinkable water to them. However the pleas have remained unheard,” Mishra said.

Drinking water projects in limbo

JANAKPUR: With drying water sources, Janakpur residents are facing acute shortage of water. And this comes amidst millions of budget allocated for drinking water is returned back unspent every year.

An overhead tank in Dhanusha which was meant to supply drinking water to the local population has remained incomplete 17 years after its starting. Bijay Yadav, an engineer involved in the project, only 49 percent of project has completed so far. Earlier the estimated cost of the tank was Rs 20.2 million rupees. Due to the delay, the cost is expected to double now. Yadav said even the additional budget would not cover the cost now as the delay has been further prolonged. “When work goes snail paced, inflation affects the cost of project,” he said.

Another overhead tank in Sabaila municipality has been facing similar fate. Stakeholders have no idea when the work would get completed. According to engineers, over Rs 10 million has already been spent for the construction work during the past six years.

Yadav stated that construction of water tank is actually going on in several VDCs and municipalities. And all of the projects are being implemented at a snail pace. “Overhead water tanks are planned at Marmadaiya, Hariharpur, Pmaprempur, Yagyabhumi, Digambarpur and Bharatpur. However, things have not progressed as expected,” he said. “So far, only the survey is completed and bidding process for the construction is underway,” he added.

While social worker Jagnarayan Yadav opined that both the project manager and the locals are responsible for the delay, Dashain Mandal, Chief of Drinking Water Office, Dhanusha stated that things are not worse. “Three old projects have been completed, others are also showing good progress,” he claimed. He added that only laying of pipelines remains a challenge. “Locals are expected to volunteer in the projects but some are unwilling. This is one of the biggest challenges. The culture of community is dying. Not only in Dhanusha, but in entire Madhesh, few people are willing to contribute labor these days. It’s sad,” Mandal said.