Local bodies allowed to arrange for supply of potable water to affected areas
With drinking water becoming more of a scarcity as the district inches towards a drought, a high-level panel headed by Social Welfare and Panchayats Minister M.K. Muneer on Thursday decided to take panchayats into “confidence”.
The Minister said in case of acute shortage, panchayats could go ahead and arrange for the immediate supply of potable water to affected areas. This step avoided the long-winded procedure whereby a panchayat should first apply to the Revenue Department for drinking water supply through tanker lorries. This application is channelled through the tahsildar, who then sends a field team along with the Village Officer for verifying the application.
The Department will permit supply of potable water and release necessary funds only after the tahsildar concerned studies the spot survey report and certifies the authenticity of the panchayat’s request.
“Today, we decided to take the panchayats into confidence and give them the leeway to arrange for the supply of potable water. This has been done so that the public, in this increasing drought-like situation, do not have to wait through the long-drawn procedure for getting drinking water. The Village Officer’s survey team can do the follow-up later,” Mr. Muneer told The Hindu on Thursday.
District Collector K.V. Mohan Kumar said the step taken by the committee, of which he was a member, was actually a gesture of “good faith” to the panchayats.
The district has 72 panchayats in it.
“The procedure of getting prior sanction from the Revenue Department was devised to prevent misuse of drinking water. The authority to sanction supply of potable water still rests with the Revenue Department. The only change is that in cases of acute shortage, when the panchayats request, we will allow them to make arrangements for supply. The verification process will be done later,” the District Collector said.
“There is a book by P. Sainath called Everybody Loves A Good Drought. Just because we have given permission to panchayat presidents and secretaries to arrange for water supply, this should not be misused. This decision from our side should not be a cause of celebration,” Mr. Muneer expressed his apprehensions.
As per government guidelines, the power to sanction drinking water supply through tanker lorries is strictly restricted. Revenue Department has a limited brief to de-silt and re-use unused ponds and wells, to extend pipelines and construct bore-wells across the district. The financial cap for each work is under Rs.5 lakh.
Mr. Mohan Kumar informed that out of Rs.2.57 crore allowed for disaster relief schemes in the district, administrative sanction had been given to spend Rs.33,37,608 for drinking water programmes. The district administration has a balance of Rs. 27 lakh from last year’s funds, too.
“With all this fund available why has the authorities not been able to do anything to provide adequate supply of water within the district? We are we still staring at acute water shortage,” E.K. Vijayan, MLA from Nadapuram, said.
A review meeting of the water situation has been scheduled for April 19.