news Monday, January 05, 2015 - 05:30
Keerthi Prakasam| The News Minute| June 12, 2014 70 percent of houses in Kerala lack access to drinking water in the state. The problem in Kerala is not a one-sided one, it is rather multifaceted. Two recent news stories highlight the lesser known drinking problem that Kerala has been facing over the years. Though famously known for its back waters and its expansive water bodies, when it comes to safe drinking water, the state lags behind. While Kochi alone needs 6 lakh million litres of water per day, the state government only supplies 2.5 lakh of this. The rest of the business is carried out by private players. The tanker mafia as some call them. On Tuesday, it was reported in the vernacular media that the water distributed through water tanks in Kochi, the commercial capital of the state, is contaminated. The statement came from the officials of the Kerala Water Authority. Samples tested showed that the water was contaminated. In 2013 central government report said that, out of total 1,02,900 tested water sources in the State, nearly 34 per cent had been identified with contamination of iron, fluoride, salinity, nitrate, arsenic. Contamination is not the only issue Many districts in Kerala are also facing shortage of drinking water. One reason attributed to this is that private water plants, are simply 'stealing' water from rivers and other water bodies. Three such pipes which fetch water from water bodies to the treatment plant were found in a place called Pathaalam, in Kochi.  Private players taking a bulk of the water is also draining water sources. "The Kerala Water Authority also provides water which is taken from  these sources. But with private players taking a bulk of this water, we are facing a shortage. End result, people don't get water through water pipes, instead they need to buy the same water from private tankers," says Managing Director of the Kerala Water Authority. Pipes bursting  On June 8, Sunday it was reported that the Kerala Water Authority has been flooded with calls for the past one month, because of the frequent disruption in water supply. The disruptions were caused due to pipe bursts. The real problem here is that the water pipes are too old, and they burst frequently  These pipes are laid at a depth of more than 12 feet, so to even detect and fix a single pipe, lot of work has to be done. Primarily the delay is also because the KWA has to get permission from other authorities, like the Public Works Department, for a go ahead. In May alone, the KWA got 750 calls complaining that they were not getting drinking water. Several studies and incidents have repeatedly pointed out the pathetic affair of water accessibility and contamination issue in the state. In 2013, the National Sample Survey reiterated that Kerala not only lags behind in comparison to the national figure for accessibility to drinking water, but it also trails behind all the southern states as well. Only 29.5 percent of the rural households have access to drinking water, rest 70% do not have. The immediate neighbor with severe water woes Tamil Nadu has far better figures to its credit – 94 percent accessibility in rural areas. Even other states which trail behind in other indices like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan fair far ahead in terms of water accessibility. In 2013, the Union Ministry of Drinking water and sanitation published the State’s Economic Review which clearly points out that the available water is mostly heavily contaminated. Kozhikode, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram were rated to be the most suffering districts in terms of water quality. This scarcity and contamination in a state which receives a healthy share of water from two different monsoon seasons is appalling. The newly formed urban settlements may be one among the many reasons, experts say. But over the years, consecutive governments have found no way to solve Kerala's water problems. The latest developments in the state are that a new company might come up to supply drinking water under public-private partnership. This idea was announced a year ago. But the proposal was opposed by the Opposition at the time. And despite the ruling Congress led United Democratic Front reiterating that Water for All is the government’s dream, no green light has been cast in this direction for some time now apart from some interim reliefs. Meanwhile, the state’s Opposition, busy hunting for scams to topple the government, fails to see issues that lie right before its eyes.

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