“The town has been facing many problems but when the district becomes operational, I want the administration to prioritize the water problem,” says Chandra Lekha Rai, a retired school teacher who lives at Gumba Hatta, Kalimpong.
Water, as we all know, is one of the most important natural resources. When there is abundance of water, we often forget its importance. But ask anyone in Kalimpong, a hill station in the Indian state of West Bengal which was recently in the news after it was declared a district, has been facing acute water crisis since many years.
The PHE Department of Kalimpong supplies water twice or thrice a week for an hour at the most. “Water supplied is not enough as it barely fills my 1,000 litre tank so we depend on rainwater to do our dishes and wash clothes,” says Ms. Rai. She further adds that during winters, she has to buy water at Rs. 350 per 1,000 litres.
Almost every household in Kalimpong is going through similar problems but there are a few lucky people who have their houses near natural water sources from where they take a pipeline.
Ryan Karthak, a school teacher, says, “We have been lucky that our house is near a perennial source and our water needs are met by that.” Mr. Karthak, who runs a hostel for school children, stresses on the importance of the water source without which running the hostel would have been difficult.
In contrast, Sikkim’s heavy reliance on government water supply has meant the death of natural water sources like dharas. Programmes like the Dhara Vikas programme have been initiated to revive dying springs and other such water sources.
With increase in population, the reservoir at Deolo Hill cannot meet the huge demand of the town. Most of the hotels buy water as the water supplied by the PHE department is not enough during tourist season. People living near Bagh Dhara and Raja Dhara have been lucky as they can fetch water from there. One can see people gather to collect water at such places in the mornings and evenings.
Plans have been made in the past to solve the water crisis in Kalimpong but the problem remains. People have somehow learnt to adjust and their routine revolves around the time tap water is supplied. We can often hear people saying “Pani aaunay time bhayo” and watch them get ready to fill up their tanks.
With Kalimpong being declared a district, people are hopeful that this problem will be solved soon. How and when that will happen remains unclear. For now, Kalimpong has to live with the problem and keep hoping that someday they won’t have to worry about water, one of the most basic needs of life.