By Santosh Verma, The Times of India News Service, May 13, 1998
NAINITAL: Citizens of this lake city are plagued with many problems, the most important among them being supply of contaminated water and poor housing.
Drinking water, supplied through taps to the residents, carries alarming levels of microbacteria. The Naini lake, the lone source of water supply to the city, is polluted with effluents. The lake is virtually stinking and its water causes skin allergies and other ailments. Responding to experts’ calls, the environment ministry has listed the Naini lake on its agenda. “The ministry has sanctioned Rs 42 crore for the development of the lake and the first instalment of Rs 80 lakh has already been received,” district magistrate Rajveer Singh said.
The project would be expedited after a study report received from the zoology department of Kumaon University, he told The Times of India News Service.
According to a survey conducted by the department of botany, Kumaon University, a total of 32 fungal species have been identified in the polluted Naini lake. Certain fungal species isolated from the polluted waters have been reported as potentially pathogenic for human and cultivated crops, the report says.
“Natural springs around Garampani, Ramgarh and Mutyeshwar, are diminishing and as a result, water pollution is the major cause of diseases in human beings and cattle,” says another survey on water resources and human activity in the Kumaon hills. The decreasing water resources have been observed to be responsible for the poor health of the people and their losing interest in games, says R.S. Negi of the department of physical education, Kumaon University.
Chief medical officer N.S. Pagnti admitted that the tap water was contaminated. The highly chlorinated water was also responsible for ailments. Since filtered water was not sufficient for the city with a permanent population of 35,000, stone formation was a common disease among the residents, particularly women, a local journalist said.
According to A.S. Rawat, an environmentalist, the pollution in the lake is attributed to seeping sewer lines, organic and toxic wastes over the past 10 years.
Housing is another serious problem. Since building activity has been banned in Nainital for the last couple of years, people are forced to live in dharamshalas, outhouses, “astabals” (horses’ stables), bathrooms and toilets, says a resident of Tallital, M. Wilson.
Rented accommodation is not easily available and outsiders wishing to settle down here have to share accommodation with others, another resident from Delhi says. The administration is, however, planning a housing scheme in nearby areas such as Bhim Tal, Bhowali and Saat Tal.
The artisans are facing hardships as well, as no attention has been paid to their uplift. “The artisans (shilpkars) have been deprived of their right to have a better standard of living. A sub-caste in the scheduled caste and tribes list of Uttarakhand, shilpkars are leading a miserable life as they have to fetch water from two to three km away. Besides, there is no education facility for their children or financial assistance to them, says Devendra Kumar, former vice-president of the nagarpalika and ex-general secretary of the Kumaon Shilpkar Sabha.
In Manora village, a few km from here, the shilpkars, most of them masons, carpenters, tailors and lohars (ironsmiths), have transportation problems. Walking on hilly tracks often takes a toll of their lives, he says. Rural development minister Narendra Singh Chaudhary assured them of a programme for their uplift on May Day, Mr Devendra Kumar said.”