Nirmalya Banerjee, TNN, Dec 7, 2012: Darjeeling: Water shortage has always been a cause of worry for the Hills people and with the much expected Balason project running into trouble, there doesn't seem to be any immediate solution.
There is no immediate solution to the water problem in Darjeeling in sight as the much expected Balason project has run into difficulties.
"A new water treatment plant would have to be installed near the river bed to deal with the problem of impure water from the river," said chairman of Darjeeling Municipality, Amar Singh Rai.
The Balason project, which involved pumping up water from the Balason river to the water reservoirs at Senchal and Sendhap, is expected to mitigate the problem of water shortage in the hill town during the lean season. Because of the acute water shortage in Darjeeling, residents have to pay through their noses to buy water carried up in water tankers. Tourists have to pay more in terms of room rent in hotels which also have to buy water.
According to Rai, the way the project had been planned, water was to be pumped up first to Sendhap Lake, where the water treatment plant has been set up. But this has failed to solve the problem of impure water from the river. The municipal authorities have decided to suspend the pumping up of water as this could pollute water in two lakes at Senchal which is collected from jhoras. The public health engineering department has instead suggested that the treatment plant be set up on the river bed.
Rai says 90% of the project was ready, including the construction of the third lake at Sendhap. There was delay in obtaining sanction from the Army for laying pipelines through Jalapahar cantonment, but now the clearance is likely to come. Gorkhaland Territorial Administration(GTA) authorities are planning to set up another project to bring water to Darjeeling from Sirikhola, where the advantage of gradient would be there. But Sirikhola is far off from Darjeeling town.
The municipality, now run by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, is also laying emphasis on repairing roads in Darjeeling town, garbage clearance and streamlining parking of vehicles. Besides its usual revenue sources, the municipality is now getting some extra funds from GTA, said Rai. A levy on tourists - which he prefers to call an "initiative" - of Rs 10 per tourist, irrespective of the duration of stay, will generate more funds.
District magistrate Saumitra Mohan said the Centre has sanctioned Rs 59 crore for restoration of the Hill Cart Road at Tindharia. Because of a landslide and caving in of a portion of the road, it is lying closed to traffic between the foothills and Kurseong for the past two years.
The NHAI would carry out the job of restoration. The Rohini Road from the foothills to Kurseong has, however, been relaid by GTA and is now in good condition. A toll plaza will also come up to generate funds for its maintenance.