Kohima: The commissioning of a water supply project for Chiephobozou and surrounding villages, which was scheduled on Tuesday at Zhadima village in Nagaland’s Kohima district, was obstructed by the residents after representations made to the concerned department went unnoticed.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Neipuchachie junction and blocked the way that leads to the reservoir after the department decided to commission the water supply without completing the project.
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. Work for the project began in 2011 after the Central government sanctioned Rs 26.2 crore for the said project.
The commissioning programme, which was scheduled by the public health engineering department (PHED), came as a surprise for the residents on Sunday after an invitation was received by the village council members.
Later on Monday, the Zhadima Village Council (ZVC) submitted a four-point representation to the principal secretary of PHED citing their grievances.
The other way to the reservoir via Nerhema was also blocked by the ZVC and youth volunteers.
Speaking to media persons at the blockade site, PHED minister Jacob Zhimomi said that the original proposed site of the project was at Dzulakie (west of Kohima). However, due to “technical difficulties”, the source was shifted to Zhadima village (North). “So, the original proposal had 24 villages, but calculating the various difficulties faced technically, we could cover around 10 villages in the first stage,” he said.
“For the other 14 villages, it was not technically feasible because of the overhead level since there is need of pressure and volume to adequately supply to 24 villages. So primarily, our first target is to cover the 10 villages,” he added.
He clarified that while the first proposal was by gravity, the current process is by pumping water. However, he assured that a review meeting will be called to take necessary steps and expressed confidence that the plight of the villages and their demand will be fulfilled very soon.
“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,” he added.
Zhaleo Rio, adviser of seri-culture, excise and minority affairs, lauded Zhimomi’s commitment to fulfill the project by December and urged the villages for cooperation.
Meanwhile, youth president, Vizosielie Khoubve said, “It is very unfortunate for us to be standing here like this. On Sunday, we received an invitation that the commissioning of the water supply will be held on Tuesday which took us by surprise as there are still many ground works which needs to be done. So, we submitted a representation to the department on Monday citing our grievances. Prior to this boycott, we were not at all intimated or consulted that 10 villages will be commissioned under the first phase. However, our top charter of the demand today is water supply to the 24 designated villages.”
VDB secretary Roko Angami said, “Our stand is that until and unless water reaches to all the 24 villages, we will not let the department inaugurate this project. We will file Right to Information (RTI) in the name of the village. The department said that they will ask the ministry for financial aid but the allocation of this particular project, we will file RTI and dig [find] out”.
Although the department has not issued any written assurance for the completion of the work by December, the gathering was peacefully disbursed after the decision to commission the water supply on Tuesday was called off.
Official sources informed that delay of the 10% funds from the state also added to the delay of the work.
Later in a press note, Maongwati Aier, principal secretary, PHED, said, “Currently, 10 villages will get sufficient drinking water from the four reservoirs which are completed along with the pumps. The remaining villages will get water supply through deep tube wells since the altitude of the other villages is much higher than the reservoir tank at Zhadima village.” However, the names of the 10 villages were not mentioned.