Do officials, those in local governing bodies and the regional setups of the Kerala Water Authority, in Thiruvananthapuram love a good drought?
As the district slowly begins to feel the heat of an impending drought this year, indications from government files of last year, when Thiruvananthapuram was among the worst-hit districts, are that officials had actually loved the drought, focussing and coming out with a plethora of projects that were termed anti-drought measures, but which in turn barely got implemented or ensured that the impact of the drought was minimised.
The government’s anti-drought preparations had begun as early as January last year, and as time went by, the project reports called for as part of the preparations revealed widespread instances of utter mismanagement of water, supply systems and precious water bodies in the State capital. The response of the local bodies to the situation was enough indication of how things were – with less than 50 of 73 panchayats submitting projects within the deadline – and how things could be this year since the ground situation that “inspired” the projects has hardly changed.
Last year, there were more defunct hand pumps in the district than working ones – a situation that is more or less the same this year as well; a majority of its public open wells and ponds were polluted, again something that is yet to change; and more disturbingly, little was done to address these despite the situation being the same for several years.Drought relief funds
According to District Collector Biju Prabhakar, the administration had arranged for enough water tankers to cater to needy areas this year and the decision was that local bodies would not be allowed to use drought relief funds as per their whims and fancies, but only for making provisions for drinking water.
“It is not when the drought is at your doorstep that you think of water supply schemes and projects that can be taken up much earlier. There are instances from last year, when Rs.32 lakh was spent on a water supply scheme, with water yet to reach that place. We won’t allow that this year, with the funds to be given only for drinking water supply,” he told The Hindu, adding that an audit of what was done last year would be done with efforts on to collect data on last year’s project implementation.
Reports suggest that almost all panchayats in the district are in for a tough summer, something that could have been avoided with a little bit of foresight, since it is not water that is absent, but the ways and the will to distribute it efficiently. Project reports submitted last year revealed that panchayats like Vellarada, which had 37 hand pumps, had only five of them operational. In Amboori, just three out of 36 were working while in Vilappilsala, only seven of 25 were functional.Polluted ponds
The condition of ponds in every panchayat was pathetic, and remains to be so. Chirayinkeezhu had reported 78 polluted ponds, while Kuttichal had 50 polluted ponds and Kilimanoor 46 ponds that were polluted beyond use. Panavoor had 46 while Vellanadu panchayat had 71 polluted ponds. While some measures were initiated to revive a few of these, the larger picture remains the same, a district panchayat official said.
The condition of overhead water tanks was stated to be satisfactory in most panchayats, but the condition of water pipelines was replete with complaints. According to Mr. Prabhakar, the government and the district administration have decided not to allow repair works of the KWA to be done with drought funds. “Those are works that should be taken up and completed much before the drought. So we will not be allowing drought funds for such works wherever possible,” he said.