The Kolkata issue

The ever busy Kolkata

The ever busy Kolkata

As a kid I have always loved going to India and spending a wonderful summer vacation in my mother land Kolkata, West Bengal.  Till date, when I land in Kolkata and get into the taxi from the airport to home, I sit by the window looking at the view and somehow it leaves me intrigued.

Somewhere at a distance a mother is yelling out to her kid while she is cooking. A stray dogs seems to be barking in front of the meat shop, while the shop’s owner enjoy’s his morning tea. The traffic police is taking care of the busy morning traffic. School kids walking in groups. The street vegetable and fish market is ready to start their daily business. And among all the commotion, the municipality tap in the corner of every street, runs tirelessly, day in and day out.

Kolkata to my eyes is a fast changing state. But somethings never change. Like I said, I have been visiting Kolkata from time memorial, and the landscape of Kolkata has drastically changed over the 20 years, but there is one aspect that remains the same year after year.

We all know that the hand-pumps and the tube-wells near our homes in India are constructed by the municipality for regular supply of water when needed. These were mainly constructed for the poor, so that they can avail water for free. Though this initiative is remarkable on various levels, but I have one question to ask, ‘Why don’t these taps have a knob on them?’

A picture clip form the Bangla newspaper Ei Samay

A picture clip form the Bangla newspaper Ei Samay

To the research that I have done, I hear that the water that flows through these taps are pumped from The Ganga on scheduled time, specifically when there is a high tide. But what I fail to understand is that even if the water is pumped at specific time periods, why can’t these taps have a knob attached to them, so that anyone who needs water can use it and close the tap, instead of recklessly wasting water.

When I was looking for articles regarding this topic I came across a website, where a concerned citizen had posted:

Kolkata Municipality’s free-flowing Water taps (May 14th, 2013)

Hello everyone. I am new to this forum and wanted to ask the senior members a question about Kolkata. I have seen some water taps in North kolkata as seen in the image below (Which I got from The epaper Ei samay) from which water keeps on flowing and there is no means (or Knob) to stop the water. I asked a friend of mine that why so much water is wasted… then he said that this is Ganga river water which automatically comes to these taps, when there is high tide in Ganga. I am not sure about this answer of his so can anybody throw some light on this? Thanks in advance.

And in reply another citizen posted:

Water is pumped from the Ganges at fixed scheduled times of the day… it is unfiltered raw Ganges water, so water is not wasted in a sense, its just the electricity bills!This is to the best of my knowledge, someone may enlighten us better.

On reading this comment I was totally applaud. Because according to the statistics provided by, out of the total 1.2 billion people living in India, nearly 128 million lack safe water. And our citizens think it is alright to let water flow, because it is unfiltered raw Ganga water.
According to an article by The Hindu:

India has about 16 per cent of the world’s population as compared to only 4 per cent of its water resources. With the present population of over 1,000 million, the per capita water availability is around 1.170 cu m/person/year. Severe water shortages have led to a growing number of conflicts between users in the agricultural and industrial sectors, as also the domestic sector. The lack of water availability and poor management practices have also manifested in poor sanitation facilities, one among the biggest environmental and social challenges India faces today.

In my recent short visit to Kolkata in April, I was coming back from a gettogether at 12 am. I saw a women washing vessels using the municipality taps. On asking the women as to how often do these taps run, she replied saying that, they run 24 x 7. And that she could avail water anytime she wanted.
A women washes her vessels, using the free flowing water provided by the Kolkata Municipality

A women washes her vessels, using the free flowing water provided by the Kolkata Municipality

Which means that these water taps run the entire day and night without a pause. So, one can just imagine the amount of water that goes waste!
I just don’t understand, on one hand we try to educate our farmers and urban dwellers how to reduce the usage of water, and we do not take care of something as simple as putting a knob on a tap. According to The Water Crisis Project:
India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050. To that end, global water scarcity is expected to become a leading cause of national political conflict in the future, and the prognosis for India is no different.
And yet we are here (ab)using water, thinking to ourselves that, “meh…I am not wasting so much!”  Less do we know that millions of others are probably saying the same thing to themselves.

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