ADB funded Mannar Water Supply Scheme: Fulfils drinking water need | Sunday Observer

ADB funded Mannar Water Supply Scheme: Fulfils drinking water need

Arumuham Kohilaraj (43) is all smiles. With the task of family washing already accomplished, she beams at the cameras. “I used to get water from the public stand post. However, we didn’t get water throughout the day. It was available only for about 2 hours in the morning from 6 to 8 a.m. and then again from 4 to 6 p.m.” Those were the days she had to go out there with pitchers, buckets or any other container available to collect water to fulfil the needs of her family. Now, that need is no more. “We have water 24 hours of the day!”

A mother of two, born and bred in Mannar, she recalls the transition – from long waits at the public stand-posts to having pipe-borne water ‘at hand’ available 24 hours, thus satisfying their drinking water needs from bowsers distributed by the local authority. She spends about 200 to 300 rupees every month on water. Money is not an issue when it comes to water in this area. She understands the difficulty of obtaining safe and clean water. Now that pipe-borne water is available, they have constructed a designated bathing area in a corner of the compound and extended the pipeline closer to her kitchen so that water is available close at hand, at all times.

Water is a precious commodity in Mannar. Half the year, the area gets no rainfall. Situated in the dry zone, in the Northern Province, the North East monsoon which brings about 1,200mm of rain on average brings some rain during late October till about January.

Uncomfortable

The recent climatic changes have altered the monsoon. The time and duration have become a rather unpredictable factor. If all goes well, they would get some intermittent rain during March to May but the rest of the time, temperatures stay above 30C and a high humidity rate around 80 on an average, makes life uncomfortable, to say the least. As there is a shortage, water is released from 3 reservoirs, Akathimuruppu, Viyathikulam and the Giant Tank for paddy, the main crop in the area. Although three rivers, the Nay Aru, Aruvi Aru and Kal Aru cut across the district, agriculture in the area predominantly depends on rainwater. While Maha is the main cultivation season with 100 % land cultivated, at Yala crop cultivation falls back to 25%. Potable water is scarce here. Unless one taps into groundwater, the only available sources are the rivers and the tanks. Though the area is marked for its extensive and highly productive aquifers,tapping into them is a difficult task.

And now, the woes are vanishing. Clean and safe water is provided to households of over 40% of the population. The expansion of facilities had been the result of the Mannar Water Supply Scheme. The Rs. 2.2 Billion project was assisted and financed by the Dry Zone Urban Water and Sanitation Project of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Sri Lankan government.

At Murunkan, the newly drilled bore-wells running into a depth of 100 feet provide water throughout the day, at a rate of 100 cubic meters per hour. These high yield wells, though with a capacity of 13,500 cubic meters, are harvested at 7,000 to 8,000 cubic meters per day.

At present, the intake pumps are operated only 20 hours a day. This water is treated and stored in the ground reservoir at Murunkan, and pumped to transmission stations from where it is distributed to households. Re-chlorination happens at the tower sites before distribution. Though the forecast was only to reach 26,000 of the population, this target was met during the first year itself due to high demand, according to the Project Manager for Vavuniya & Mannar, National Water Supply and Drainage Board, (NWSDB) Velayutham Uthayaseelan.

“Prior to the project, it was limited to 3,000 connections. We have been able to expand it to about 13,000, and 1,000 more connections will be provided by next year” explains G. Nimalan, District Engineer, Mannar NWSDB. Though the original plan for the distribution system was for 105 Km they had managed to extend it to 145 Km. The ongoing project initiated in 2011 has been able to meet most of its beneficiary targets.

“According to the project plan, the population coverage forecast for 2035 is 55,000,” describes Uthayaseelan. However, the project as of end 2016, “had reached a population of 52,584 persons.”

At the start, the percentage of households with pipe-borne water had been 15.18 percent within the district of Mannar. It has now risen to 47%, equal to the national average. “If there are more water sources we can meet the water needs 100%,” says Nimalan. Lack of water sources is the main obstacle in providing pipe-borne water to households in the Mannar district. Although considerable amounts of clean water could be accessed at the aquifers, suitable aquifers with a high yield to supply the water needs of thousands of households are scarce. Added to this is the cost of laying the transmission and distribution systems.

Oft the high yielding aquifers are located far from populated areas. Though solutions were sought to utilize the available surface water, the need for irrigable water has impeded the efforts. However, the Greater Mannar Water Supply Project, which is still in its proposal form plans to tap the surface water from Kal Aru and Tiyadikulam to supply areas which cannot be reached through the Murunkan bore wells.

An average household, with 4-5 members uses about 15 to 20 units (cubic meters) of water per month generating a bill for about Rs. 800. “This is a reasonable amount for a household in the district. They are not reluctant to pay this amount for water. The recovery rate is about 95%,” explains Nimalan. So far, disconnections have been far and few. The grace amount is Rs. 5,000. “Once any bill reaches Rs.5,000, we send the disconnection notice. Though sometimes they wait till the bill reaches around Rs. 5,000 they pay before disconnection,” he points out.

Projects

Besides constructing the well-field and pumping station at Murunkan and the supply and laying of transmission and distribution systems the project funded by ADB (Rs. 1.8 B) together with the government (Rs. 0.4B) includes construction of ground reservoirs; rehabilitation of existing water storage facilities; supply and installation of a new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system; and construction of household and public sanitation facilities including a septage treatment plant.

Similar projects implemented in “Vavuniya, Puttlam and Chilaw, will be completed by end 2017,” states Kamal Dahanayake, Senior Project Officer, Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project ADB Colombo office. The total investment of the project, executed in these 4 major towns is estimated at USD 163 million including an ADB loan of USD 125 M, and government contribution of USD 38 M.  

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