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‘Treated’ water finds few takers in Haryana villages
Nearly 100 reverse osmosis plants in three dists non-functional
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Kaithal, June 12
Three years after they were given the go-ahead by the Haryana Government, most of the state’s reverse osmosis (RO) plants are in troubled waters. These 100-odd plants were set up at a cost of Rs 11.25 crore by the Naandi Foundation in three districts - Mahendergarh, Jhajjar and Kaithal. The idea was to provide clean drinking water in villages where underground water is either unfit for consumption or canal water is not available.

However, these plants continue to be under-utilised even in areas where water is either brackish or has high solid content.

In Khurana village, the plant has a design capacity of 6,000 litre per day. But only 30 families of the village with 800 homes are “buying” treated water, resulting in just 8.33 per cent adoption levels.

“Initially, I, too, used to get my water supply from here. However, as months went by, they stopped supplying medicines to clean the pipes and didn’t change the filters. We can’t pay money for water that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth,” rues Wazir Singh, a villager.

Another villager, Karan Singh, points out that the “irregular” supply schedules have also weaned away the people, who prefer to rely on the assured government water supply. “The women used to queue up but the plant would not open sometimes,” he said.

Chamchi (71) sums up the sentiment of those her age. “We are used to the taste of water that is supplied to our houses. This (RO) water tastes different. I can’t adapt to its taste at this age, though younger members of my family are okay with it,” she remarks.

In Keorak village, the women outrightly reject the project. “It’s no good. On top of that, they expect us to pay. Though the charges are meager (10 paise per litre), why should we pay extra for the drinking water. Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to supply clean water to us,” asks Ramti Devi, a village elder.

In a village that has a utilisation rate of 20 per cent, with over 100 consumers, Om Prakash, the employee at the plant, says they have introduced “home delivery” of water to adjoining villages. “Not many families here have shown interest. Paying Rs 60 a month for a 20-litre can of water daily has not gone down well with the villagers,” he says.

While Kaithal has low adoption levels despite government claims of high fluoride content in untreated water, a few pockets in Jhajjar and Mahendergarh, where water is brackish, have elicited better response. However, that’s not enough to silence the critics.

Questions are being raised over the “wrongful” sanctioning of Rs 11.25 crore to the Nandi Foundation for setting up the plants. It is alleged that the government did not invite tenders for the work. However, the department concerned has now “rectified” its mistake and started inviting tenders for new plants.

One of the Trustees of the Foundation, Dr Isher Judge Ahulwalia, says, “The RO plants are doing extremely well in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. However, I have received a feedback of ‘street competition’ cropping up at some places and reports of locals undercutting the project. We have told our employees to stay put and run the plants in a sustainable manner.”

On grant of a lump sum to run the project, Ahluwalia says that tenders may not have been invited since it was initiated on a pilot basis.

Assistant manager of the Naandi Foundation, Raju, who was managing Haryana till a few months back, said, “While awareness is low, we are facing shortage of raw water in Mahendergarh. Of late, there has been a 15 per cent rise in our clientele.” (To be concluded)





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