Directives to continue drought-mitigation steps go unheeded

Summer rain over the past few days has brought much-needed relief from the sweltering heat but not from water scarcity in Kollam district. With temperatures poised to peak in May, the threat of drought looms large over the district, especially its eastern high range and other hilly regions.

It was exactly a year ago, on April 24, that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had arrived here to review last year’s drought situation. The Chief Minister had then promised that there would be no dearth of funds to address the situation, and made several on-the-spot monetary allocations.

At the review meeting, he told officials that even after the onset of monsoon, measures to tackle drought should continue. “The trend is to drop water- management measures once the rains set in. This attitude should change. This year’s (2013) severe drought should act as a warning. We all need to become more aware of the impact of drought,” he said.

Last year, rains hit the district on May 25, and continued copiously well into September. As a result, water sources swelled. But the Chief Minister’s directions to carry forward drought-mitigation measures even after the monsoon set in were ignored at the bureaucratic level.

Drinking water woes

Now, a good number of villages in the district have been gripped by drinking water shortage. Villages even in Kunnathur taluk, the land of Sasthamcotta freshwater lake, are facing an acute drinking water scarcity. The local bodies are short of financial resources to make arrangements for supply of water in tanker lorries to such areas.

District Collector Pranab Jyothinath on Tuesday called an emergency meeting with officials of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) to find a solution to the problem.

The Collector directed the KWA authorities to prepare within three days a list of grama panchayats in the district that are facing drinking water scarcity.

Preliminary estimates show that 43 of the 70 panchayats in the district are facing serious water scarcity, and another 20 are likely to experience a shortage in the prevailing climatic conditions. Directions have been issued to tap all available water sources to meet the water shortage.

No water supplied through pipes should be allowed to go waste owing to pipe- bursts, the Collector directed the KWA officials. Mr. Jyothinath wanted the Ground Water and Irrigation departments to work hand-in-hand with the KWA to address the situation on a war-footing. Strong action should be initiated against those found wasting water, he said.

Serious problem

District panchayat president S. Jayamohan told The Hindu that the water scarcity was serious. Many drinking water projects sanctioned in the wake of last year’s drought situation were not carried forward.

Even the allocation sanctioned under the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission for the district was not released. He said the district panchayat had now evolved the Ayyankali Drinking Water Scheme to meet the water shortage in Dalit colonies.

Mr. Jayamohan sought that the government take steps to formally commission the Meenad drinking water scheme which had been completed.

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