Friday , 20 September 2019
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Dying For Water

Government abjectly failed to prevent and manage water disaster in Tiswadi and Ponda

For a week, tens of thousands of families in Tiswadi and Ponda talukas have been running about madly for water. Tankers were not available to ordinary families, though they went to high officers’ homes readily; private tankers indulged in black marketing; mineral water cans were sold in black; people did not bathe for a day or days; home kitchens were shut. This is one more disaster after the recent flood where the Goa government has been found to have been utterly laid-back. All that the people got was a rich supply of blame of the past PWD ministers and promise of getting the pipeline repaired quickly.

The government says the disaster happened because the pipelines were damaged following the collapse of a retaining wall constructed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to facilitate widening of the Ponda-Belagavi highway. We now have a fallback feeder for power lines. If one fails, the other lights on. There is no alternative pipeline of water supply underway. Alternative pipelines should have been there at secure distance from the main pipeline, and from another water treatment plant. The PWD would have to design alternative pipelines and lay new pipelines at safe distances from the main pipelines, so that if one is damaged by some cause, the other can be used. The PWD must lay alternative pipelines to all cities with large population.     

Adding to the government’s infrastructural failure in providing a secure fallback pipeline is its abject logistical failure. There was nothing like an emergency response to the water crisis.  Politicians went to the site of damage and got their photographs published and made unrealistically optimistic statements in order to keep people happy. PWD officials went a mile extra overestimating their capabilities and assuring the Chief Minister and PWD Minister that they would repair the damaged pipelines within a couple of days. When Thursday and Friday passed they said they would do it by Monday. When Monday was approaching they said they would do it by Tuesday. On Monday evening they said they would do it by Wednesday morning.

The government’s total failure in emergency logistical response was apparent in pathetic number of tankers. The ministers, instead of going to the site every day, should have set up a control room to organize logistics. Calls for tankers mounted; not even ten per cent were responded the same day. Some calls got no response. Private tanker owners decided to make more out of human misery and hiked their charges by 100 per cent. Cans of bottled water of 5 and 20 litres were sold at higher prices and even these stocks disappeared from the market, people were so desperate. The government is for the welfare of the people; it is for the protection of the people from profiteering. Why did not the ministers and high officers marshal tankers from other parts of Goa to beef up the number of tankers in the two affected talukas? The government invoked ESMA to straighten private taxi operators. They should have used legal force to make private tankers join the small fleet of public tankers, so that families got water. There were complaints that water supplied by private tankers was smelly. There was no government anywhere in sight – no elected public servant, no selected public servant – to whom buyers of water with a bad smell could turn to for help. There was no quality certification in place and FDA does not exist. What can be more essential a commodity than water–safe water? Human beings can live without food but not water. The government has to admit they failed in their given responsibility to provide essential commodities available to every family.

We hope the state government ceases to be laid-back on disasters. We hope they create secure alternative water pipelines. We hope they buy more tankers for the PWD. We hope they use their powers to marshal logistical resources such as tankers from parts of the state not affected by disaster. We hope they use their powers to penalize profiteers who try to add to human misery. Lastly we hope they do not divert scarce water resources to houses of ministers and high officers.    

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