Public Works Department Minister Ramakrishna Dhavalikar has promised to replace all the old cast-iron water pipelines in the state with ductile iron pipes for improving water supply. The government has allocated Rs 1,800 crore for it and the work will commence in three months. Most of the water pipelines in Goa are decades old and leak or burst frequently. Their replacement should have been undertaken long ago. The state receives copious rainfall and there are nearly a dozen water treatment plants that produce treated water every day. Goa produces around 620 million litres of treated water per day, which is enough to meet the state’s normal demand. However, a substantial quantity of water is lost in distribution due to leakages and ruptures of pipelines and pilferage. Though Goa has almost 100 per cent coverage of villages and towns with piped water, supply of water is inadequate, unsatisfactory and erratic. During the summer the water supply often gets disrupted and people meet their demands with tankers. PWD ministers have been promising round-the-clock water supply for two decades but the assurances have remained mere announcements.
There is hardly any day when one or the other pipeline does not break down in the state. Digging by this or that department also causes rupture of water pipelines. There are occasions when the water purification process has to be curtailed due to frequent power breakdowns at the water treatment plants. There have also been cases of water pipelines breaking down because of back pressure of water due to power failures. PWD ministers make announcements while laying the foundation stone of some project. People in several parts of the state, including urban areas, get water only for an hour or two, that too not regularly. The worst affected are the people living in places at the dead end. At times water is not released as scheduled, adding to the woes of the people, especially those not present in the house at the time when it is released. People are not able to complete their daily chores due to unscheduled release or to store it for use later.
Goans often raise banners for the cause of environment and water, but they do not restrain those among them who make wrong use of treated water supplied through pipelines. Despite government orders not to use piped water for gardening and washing of vehicles, people continue to disobey the directives with contempt. People need to give a serious thought to conservation of water and prevent its misuse. The PWD’s task is to make water supply adequate and steady for all homes as it is essential to daily life. At the same time, the PWD needs to take action against people who misuse treated water and impose fines. A mass awareness campaign should also be conducted alongside to make people give up misusing treated water. The government can encourage revival and maintenance of wells for people to use water for gardening and washing their vehicles. As the PWD replaces the old pipelines, it should, like the power department, replace old water meters which tend to give faulty readings or could be manipulated. The PWD should also repair the broken or damaged pipelines at the earliest so as to prevent loss of water and revenue. There are cases in which the damaged pipelines remain unattended for weeks.
The PWD, in collaboration with the water resources department, should make use of the copious rainfall in the state and develop adequate water storage facilities that can help the state meet its water requirements and assure augmenting of the capacity of water treatment plants and supply of treated water. The PWD has to complete the projects and works in a time-bound manner, something that has not been done. There are several water treatment plants whose capacity can be augmented to ensure round-the-clock supply of water. It has been acknowledged by the authorities that distribution is the main culprit in ensuring proper water supply to households; so this aspect needs to be looked into without further delay. Panaji, the capital city of the state, has a water supply of 310 litres per capita per day (LPCD), as against the national average of 135 LPCD. Yet many city residents have to get water supply from tankers. Hopefully, as promised by the Smart City Mission, the distribution in Panaji can be evenly and adequately done in the future with the use of technology, which can detect leakage and pilferage to overcome the handicaps in water distribution. The PWD should use such technology all over the state to prevent leakage and pilferage and streamline water distribution.