Lumshyiap, a small hamlet under Umroi constituency in Meghalaya, has for over a hundred years, continued to depend upon spring water to meet its daily water needs.
The singular perennial water spring in this beautiful hamlet, though, is quite far from most of the houses, and each household has to spend at least two hours daily to refill their water vessels.
The women of the villages say that their children would unnecessarily waste their time in this pursuit, akin to the legendary uphill boulder-rolling Sisyphus, a leviathan effort that directly interfered with, and slashed drastically their study hours.
This has been happening for as long as they can remember.
On September 3, 2020, though, a first-of-its-kind, significant life-altering milestone to alter the villagers’ lot occurred.
On that momentous day, a unique water supply scheme was inaugurated. The distinctiveness of the scheme was spelled out by the PHE Minister, Samlin Malngiang in his speech as chief guest at the inaugural programme.
He declared, “Lumshyiap is the first-ever village in the entire state of Meghalaya to receive house-to-house water connections.”
It was indeed an event that brought smiles to many expectant faces. We are grateful to the Honourable minister and the PHE department for their constant support and encouragement that they have rendered, particularly to the village heads of Lumshyiap.
This write-up is not to shed limelight on oneself for this momentous feat.
It is a humble attempt to publicly acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the incumbent and previous Rangbah Shnongs and the villagers themselves, who, over the many years of struggle to fulfil this aspiration, never gave up in quest of its realisation.
In 2019, when the construction work of the scheme was going on, the incumbent Rangbah Shnong of Lumshyiap, once hurriedly came to me to inform that the storage tank which was being built was perhaps inadequate to contain sufficient water to meet the requirements of all the households.
Fearing that the entire scheme could be jeopardised, we immediately rushed to Lumshyiap to inspect the construction work first-hand.
After the inspection and intervention of the PHE officials, the matter was rectified,thanks to the earnest efforts of all stakeholders.
It is heartening to mention that the PHE Department itself had initiated this unique house-to-house water connection from the state government’s resources, and completed it in December 2019.
This initiative even preceded the Central Government’s Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). With the launching of the JJM, we hope that many more households will be blessed with a household water connection by 2024.
Being an ‘Aspirational District’, one of the primary tasks and initiatives in Ri Bhoi is to ensure proper and adequate potable water supply to all households under the district by March 2021.
Lumshyiap has exemplified how a synergy between village authorities and villagers can usher in positive change.
A convergence of minds and adequate efforts by all stakeholders will bring about a much-needed change in the lives of people, encompassing house-to-house water supply, sanitation, and proper healthcare.
The novel scheme in Lumshyiap will cover all these facets of development.
More importantly, it will save the villagers’ time and effort. Rather than spending two hours walking and refilling their vessels, they can now invest that time doing other more productive work.
Since 2018, the constituents have been coming to me with innumerable woeful accounts over the absence of proper potable water supply.
Most of the schemes that were inaugurated in the past have passed their prime, and are in need of urgent overhaul. In my observations, the adequate supply of potable water remains one of the major challenges that need to be addressed with utmost pragmatism.
Most of the water pipes in the constituency are either broken, have rusted, or have disappeared completely.
This has jeopardised the condition of most women in particular, as theyhave to attend to the bulk of the domestic chores.
I tried to turn to the PHE department but discovered that it lacks adequate monetary resources to meet these pressing needs. Left with no option, the MLA scheme had to be utilised in certain villages that were in desperately dire straits.
Some villages benefitted greatly from these initiatives and many a distressed villager smiled with contentment thereafter. Another village which benefitted from such efforts is Nongrim Nongladaw, where the MLA scheme and the MGNREGA were utilised to solve its water problems.
In my quest to solve these water woes, what is lamentable and worrying is the fast disappearance and depletion of water sources and catchment areas.
If we are not resolute enough to conserve these natural treasures, the water pipes that we have installed and intend to install will simply become useless metal mementos.
On the part of Lumshyiap, the village authorities and villagers alike have taken a resolute decision to preserve the catchment area by planting more trees up to at least one acre within the periphery of the water source.
We desperately need more such thoughtful and practicable initiatives that contribute not only to our lot, but more importantly to the cause of those who will continue to live after we are gone.
“We feel content and our mind is no longer cluttered with thinking about walking a long distance every day to fill the empty water vessels at home,” remarked an elated woman of Lumshyiap.
I want that her happiness should be an infectious one; it should spread through the lovely hills and plains to spread contentment in all the rural households in this beloved state of ours.
We should take a leaf from Lumshyiap’s success story, one that is bereft of any excuses, despite the innumerable obstacles they have faced. Our villages need to unite and spread positivity in their lives and livelihoods, so as to ensure that the deliverance of house-to-house potable water becomes a reality: water is the perennial source of life, and the soul-flow of a society in motion.
(The author is the MLA of Umroi constituency and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)