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More Rain, Less Water

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We, the Government

By HUGH & COLLEEN GANTZER

On the evening of Friday, 27th September 2019, our taps went dry. The next morning, again, the Jal Sansthan did not supply water to us. The monsoon, however, has been very generous. It has been raining steadily all through August and September. Most of our showers have allowed water to soak into our limestone hills, charge our aquifers, caused landslides only where forests had been felled to build eyesores of apartment blocks and hotels. But then not everyone refers to the MDDA as the Mussoorie Dehradun DEVELOPMENT Authority! The Jal Sansthan folk claim that they could not pump water because there was no electricity. But then don’t they have reserve stocks for just such a contingency? Or are these reserve stocks meant only for such pressing emergencies as the visits of VIPs and their ilk because these exalted personages must never, not ever, be deprived of anything! After all their opinions will decide the futures of the senior babus of the Jal Sansthan, and their post-retirement sinecures with, hopefully, a chauffeur-driven car at state expense! And who cares for We, the Government: the people who have voted the netas-turned- VIPs into power! If we sound cynical, then what option do we have? We are particularly unhappy because we have, recently, come across another example of the culpable obtuseness of the Jal Sansthan’s senior Netas. As we have described in an earlier column, most of Mussoorie’s water is pumped up, from springs in our valleys, to reservoirs higher up our mountains. From there it is released to flow, by gravity, to the consumers in Mussoorie. At one time we knew exactly how much water every consumer used: their consumption was metered and every consumer got a bill based on his meter reading. Then, for some unspecified reason, all private water meters were disconnected and water bills for non-commercial consumers were pegged, in effect, to the House Tax charged by the Municipality! When every house can get a bill for electricity consumed, printed by the meter reader on the spot, why can’t the Jal Sansthan also follow this system? Today, therefore, we know how much water is pumped up by each pumping station at the springs in our valleys. The next bit of information we receive is when Jal Sansthan employees look into the covered reservoirs, gaze at the dark level of the shimmering, moving water, check this moving surface level against calibrated markings made on the inner walls of the reservoirs, and give their reports. As can be visualised, this can at best be a guesstimate! In short, we may know how much water is being pumped up the rising pipe lines by the Pump Houses at the valley springs. We do NOT know how much water may have leaked out of these pipes laid on our erosion-prone limestone slopes. We do NOT know how much water has actually reached each reservoir. We do NOT know how much water has leaked out of our reservoirs, some of them dating back to British times. We do NOT know how much of our water actually reaches Mussoorie’s consumers because most of the water meters have been deliberately disconnected by the Jal Sansthan! Now comes the latest whammy from the far sighted babus of the Jal Sansthan. Their Executive Engineer has given it in writing that they have asked the government for Rs 98.84 lakhs to install Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) bulk meters FOR EACH PUMPING STATION. But that is not what is required. We need bulk meters at the INPUT and OUTFLOW points of EACH RESERVOIR. How else can we get an accurate picture of how much water is being consumed in Mussoorie? Shortages of essential supplies like water can be handled only if we have accurate figures. Otherwise, shortages lead to a hyped up increase in the value of the commodity. The high value of diamonds is sustained by a deliberately created shortage. The owners of the diamond mines and their dealers maintain a careful control on the amount of diamonds they release to the market. Consequently, we are certain that the learned Executive Engineer knows that the only people who welcome the deliberate concealment of facts, and shortages are rent seekers!