1900 schemes in 68 years: 65 per cent drink unsafe water in Kashmir

Women carrying water from a contaminated river for drinking and cooking purposes, in Pattan area of Baramulla district of North Kashmir on “World Water Day”. (PTI Photo by S Irfan)

Only 35 per cent Jammu and Kashmir residents have access to drinking water from treated sources, government data has revealed.

According to the official data, around 65 per cent of population has access to tap water of which 34.7 per cent get water from treated sources and 29.2 per cent from untreated sources. 6.5 per cent people use well water of which 1.9 per cent are uncovered wells and 4.7 are uncovered wells, according to sources quoting official figures.

The rest population gets unfiltered water from springs, lakes, canals and other water bodies.

Medical experts are of the opinion that the percentage of people in J&K suffering from various abdominal disorders, including liver and kidney ailments are due to consumption of untreated water. “Most of water-borne disease are common in the state. These could be controlled only when we get water from treated sources,” a doctor at SMHS hospital wished anonymity told news wire KNS.

There has been sharp increase in water borne diseases for the past several years and according to health experts they have documented that these diseases had emerged due to supplying of “contamination and unfiltered” water to the people.

A Public Health Engineering official wishing anonymity said, “The rickety apparatus for water testing, and poor state of existing water supply schemes was resulting in poor quality of drinking water in Kashmir.”

He added that in many areas of Kashmir, especially the rural ones, water was supplied through pumping stations that neither had a filtration plant, nor a reservoir. “The water is just lifted and pumped, without any treatment. That (absence of reservoir and filtration plant) has a huge bearing on the water quality,” he said.

According to the guidelines, it is mandatory that all the drinking water sources have to be tested once in a year for chemical contamination and twice for bacteriological contamination. Besides the proper filtration of water has to be a continuous process.

However, people complain that unfiltered and muddy tap water was being supplied to them without any filtration being done.

In J&K thousands of water supply schemes were taken up for execution over the years, majority of them have not been completed thus forcing people to consume water from the contaminated sources.

“These schemes could not be completed due to non-availability of funds,” an official of public health engineering department said.

In some areas, water is being supplied through water tanks while in some areas people fetch water from streams and rivers without being filtered.

While there are around 100 water testing laboratories, sources said PHE department has failed to monitor the water quality with “unfiltered and muddy” tap water being supplied to the people.

It is to mention here that the government had sought “one time funding” for completion of around 1600 water supply schemes in the state.

Official sources said that around 1,900 water supply schemes have been started by the successive governments in the six eight years in the state.

At least 173 were allotted for Varmul, Anantnag 156, Budgam 111, Kupwor 109, Kulgam 101, Shupian 90, Srinagar 98, Bandepur 89, and Ganderbal 73.

Similarly, 294 schemes were sanctioned for Jammu district, 168 for Rajouri, Poonch 89, Kishtwar 99, Kathua and Samba 72 each. While for Leh and Kargil distrcts of Ladakh region, 149 schemes were allotted.