Kohima: One of Nagaland’s mega-projects, sanctioned over a decade ago to provide water supply to 24 villages under the Chiephobozou rural development (RD) block in Kohima district, remains incomplete to date, only resulting in cracks in the pipelines.

At Zhadima village, about 19 km from Kohima town, three gigantic water balancing reservoir tanks on a mountain top and two water treatment plants down a river stream— built to distribute water to the neighbouring villages — are almost forgotten, if not for the picturesque towering view that it serves.

In 2011, the water treatment plant and balancing reservoir for the Chiephobozou RD block, taken up by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), received a sanction of Rs 26.2 crore for the project, following which the work began in November that year.

On July 30, 2019, when the department scheduled the commissioning of the water supply project, locals obstructed the commissioning of the incomplete water supply project. That very day, PHED minister Jacob Zhimomi had assured that the project will be completed that year.

“I had committed that by December we will put all pressure, all resources to see that the project is completed. But now we will have to find other avenues to finance this project because we don’t have resources on our own,” Zhimomi had said. 

Fast forward to 2022, the mega water supply is yet to see the light of day.

“The work began on time and three big water tanks were built over the ground here and two other tanks were also built down the river streams, in order to pump water to these three water reservoirs and to distribute it to the 24 villages. If the government order was to be followed, the work should have been completed in two years’ time but it is still incomplete,” Neilalhoulie Soliezuo, Chairman of the Zhadima village council, said during a site visitation on Thursday.

In response to a recent RTI filed by senior journalist Atono Tsükrü Kense, the water supply project, sanctioned under Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) under the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) was for Rs 26.26 crore, of which Rs 24.96 crore was released for different components since December 13, 2010, while the remaining amount of Rs 1.26 crore is yet to be released by the ministry. 

The RTI stated that land measuring 4.53 acres was purchased from four individuals at a lump sum amounting to Rs. 4.50 lakh. It also stated that as per the DPR, the proposed water source is at Vithorü stream which lies between Zhadima village and Nerhema village, the stream where two water tanks are built to treat and pump water to the tanks on the mountain top at Zhadima. The water at the reservoir will then be distributed to all 24 villages by gravity flow.

However, despite the time frame for completion of the project within 24 months, the project, which commenced in November 2011, missed the target and is now about a decade behind schedule.

Not a drop of water

Although the RTI from the PHED claimed that “assets constructed are functional” and the “structures are lying unused because the villagers were demanding more water tanks”, the village council chairman said, “We, the people of Zhadima village, never asked for more tanks. We only asked the government to complete the work. But till now, not a drop of water has reached the village. So we appeal the government to complete the work at the earliest, and provide water to the people.”

The village chairman said as per the DPR, 10 inch water pipelines from the water treatment plant below to the reservoir on the top have been replaced with 5 inch pipelines. As for the distribution of water at the localities in the village, half inch pipes were installed by the department in some areas. However, pipe connections from the reservoir have not been installed.

Head Gaon Bura (GB) of Zhadima village, Kedilezo M Keditsu, informed that the village, which is home to 891 households with a total population of 5,487, is deprived of basic water supply. He said that during the dry season, locals are compelled to purchase water from mobile water tanks as ponds in the village become dry.

Village Development Board (VDB) secretary Roko Angami, said that although an assurance was given by the minister concerned to provide water through the mega water project, three years has passed since the commitment. Locals are yet to drink a single drop of water from the reservoir, Angami said.

“I think the department is testing the patience of the 24 villages. So far, there is no information, and we are wondering why the department is playing with the villagers. More than Rs 25 crore was drawn for the project but it remains incomplete and the villagers are being fooled. The villagers cannot wait anymore,” he said.

Water pressure

With the project in a limbo, the empty water tanks on the mountain top have become a recreational spot for the neighbouring villages. And the pipelines connecting the gigantic water tanks have started developing cracks, indicating years of neglect.

“What is the logic behind setting up the reservoir? We are standing here three years after an assurance was given that the project will be completed. But what is the progress?” Vizosielie Khoube, president of Zhadima Village Youth and Sports Organization, questioned.

Khoubve, who is also the youth president of the Northern Angami-C range covering 12 villages, said the range under Kohima district is one of the most affected due to water scarcity. “The department should not make the village a scapegoat or an excuse for their failures in commissioning the water supply project,” he said, further warning of taking their own course of action.

The water treatment plant and balancing reservoir for the Chiephobozou rural development was projected to cover 24 villages located at Zhadima village under Kohima district. While the original proposal had 24 villages in it, the department later said calculating the various technical difficulties, only 10 villages will be covered in the first stage.

As the project is under investigation in the Nagaland Lokayukta, the village leaders made an appeal to the lokayukta to judiciously investigate the lapses and anomalies of the project. Further, they urged the state government to bring in the highest investigating authority of the country to examine the project that remains “unattended”.

Also read: Centre to develop remote areas: Union minister at Nagaland’s Longwa


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