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Thanks for Gairsain, but we need Water

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By HUGH & COLLEEN GANTZER

Dear Mr Chief Minister: On the 6th of March, a national daily attributed this wonderful statement to you: “A mafia that had been active on the fourth floor around the ministers has been dismantled. I can confidently say that such elements have been chased out of the state.” If this quotation is correct, then we must be the first state to be rid of those rent-seeking parasites. We suggest that you share your cleansing systems with other CMs: they can save the expense of hiring high-cost 5-star shelters for their avaricious political protégés. Since you have solved this major problem, here is another. The shortest quotation in the world’s greatest bestseller is “I thirst!” This is what the citizens of the urban centres in our state will soon cry out. Do read the Garhwal Post’s write-up of 2.3.20: Himalayan towns running dry, say experts. The experts were Anjal Prakash and David Molden. Prakash is the Regional Director and Adjunct Associate Director with the Bharti Institute of Public Policy of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. Molden is the Director General, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), an international organisation based in Kathmandu, Nepal. This expert team carried out research in the Himalayan towns of many countries. In India, they chose Mussoorie. Here, briefly, is what they found. We repeat them along with our own, area- specific, inputs. 1. “There is a lack of long term strategies.” Not correct. The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) endorsed such strategies in its “Carrying Capacity of Mussoorie” published in 2001. Our Uttarakhand politicians and officials have either not been able to enforce them or have found ways and means to subvert them. That could have been before you, Mr CM, cleansed the fourth floor of the devious mafia! Can we expect more accountability now that you have taken a personal interest in such disinfection? 2. “Increase budget for reviving springs and water harvesting.” The SCMC wanted the MDDA to ensure that every additional, or new, construction sanctioned by the Authority should incorporate a water-harvesting system. This system should have a rain-water reservoir independent of the one connected to the municipal water supply. It should also have an independent distribution network. All this was supposed to have been inspected by the MDDA’s staff, and duly certified by them, both during construction and on completion. Do call for the records, Mr CM, and penalise those who have defaulted. The mafia seems to have a deep and wide network of roots! 3. “Pay more attention to equitable distribution of water.” The Jal Sansthan and Jal Nigam have removed water meters from all private consumers. They have evaded installing bulk meters on the inflow and outflow points of our reservoirs. Consequently, and perhaps very conveniently, they do not know how much water is lost to leakage from the pumping stations to the reservoirs, or during storage in these British-era reservoirs, or in the pipes from the reservoirs to the consumers. This gives plenty of scope for speculation about the existence of a Jal Mafia, Mr CM. And so, this summer, once again, Mussoorie will be bristling with rumours that water supply is being given to those who can lubricate this suspected nexus. Is this “equitable distribution of water” or the creation of artificial shortages, fertile ground for distrust and civic unrest? 4. “View mountain cities in the context of water and environment.” That is exactly why the SCMC was created in the first place. But times have changed. An altered politico-administrative climate has, apparently, left this “High Powered Committee” uncertain of how it can enforce its writ or perform its over-arching monitoring role. Its continued effectiveness is dulled by civic and political apathy. Incidentally, much before the creation our summer capital, and the predictions of these international experts, we had suggested the Jumna Water Supply Project. Another government had sanctioned a survey and then dragged its political heels. Now, at long last, we learn that it could be completed by 2022. If this is true, then the voters, whom we call We, the Government, should be informed of this long-awaited thirst- quenching, achievement along with the names of our MLAs who drove it.

With our warm regards, Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

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