In 2014 when Narendra Modi, the then contender of Prime Ministerial post attended an election rally in Guwahati had said that the Congress-led state government failed to provide essential water supply to its citizens despite the mighty Brahmaputra flowing through Assam.

Referring to his own state Gujarat Modi had said that even if his state lacked sufficient water sources but every resident of the state received 24X7 water supply.

He also expressed displeasure over the fact that even after the mighty river Brahmaputra passing through the heart of the Guwahati, the residents of the city received no water from the government water supply schemes during most of the days of the year.

We, the Guwahatians, must admit the fact that to date, most of the wards of the city have not been covered by the water supply schemes that were commissioned in different times starting from the British rule.

To compare the water supply scenario between Guwahati and Gujarat, I personally have tried to collect data from different sources. One of my friends who once stayed in Surat, the eighth largest city of India in respect of population shared his opinion by saying that water is never ever an issue for Gujaratis.

Unlike the people of Assam, they do not recognize it as a problem. “The people of Gujarat who regularly get sufficient water throughout the day cannot imagine a day without having water in their pipeline. The residents of Surat get water from the water plant of Tapi, a very small river flowing nearby the city.”

To corroborate his statement, I searched Google and found the Website of Surat Municipal Corporation where the corporation declared very transparently about their water mission. “Every citizen of Surat must get safe and reliable drinking water on a continuous basis at his/her doorstep through water supply distribution network,” it says.

Let’s come to the water distribution network under Guwahati Municipality Corporation. According to the official website of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation, it has three water supply treatment plants at Panbazar, Satpukhuri and Kamakhya.

Water is pumped from the river Brahmaputra to these plants and after processing in the plant water is pumped to different reservoirs located at hilltops and then distributed to the consumers. Apart from these old plants, there are nine deep tube wells at different locations.

The installed capacity and present running capacity of each plant are mentioned below.

Plant LocationInstalled Capacity Year of CommissioningPresent output
from the plant
Panbazar45.00 MLD196325.00 MLD
Satpukhuri22.50 MLDOriginal plant in 1930, renovated in 1984 (Supply Network 1930)15.00 MLD
Kamakhya4.50 MLD19923.00 MLD
Deep Tube Wells
(8 functioning)
2.00 MLDAt the different time since 19811.50 MLD
Total = 74.00 MLD 44.50 MLD

Unfortunately, the aforesaid water plants have failed to meet the demand of more than 70 per cent people and till date, the GMC water distribution network covers only 30 per cent of the people of the city.

Although the installed capacity of these plants is 74 MLD (Millions of Litres per Day) in reality, the total capacity of these plants is only 44.5 MLD.

Besides the GMC, the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) and Guwahati Metropolitan Drinking Water & Sewerage Board also supply over 31 MLD water to some parts of the city. Thus, around 1.7 million people of the city get only 75.5 MLD water, provided by different agencies.

The Centre stipulated a norm of having 135 litres per capita per day (lpcd) water supply to towns and cities not equipped with sewerage. As the Guwahati city neither has sewerage nor any municipal sewage treatment plant therefore according to the said norms the city needs at least 229 MLD for its residents. And, if the water supply norm of 150 lpcd for metro cities with sewerage is applied, then water demand in Guwahati comes to 255 MLD. But the Guwahati, which is called the gateway of the Northeast, does not have the ability to fulfil the requirements of its residents according to the above norms.

Considering the problem of water scarcity in the city as a major one, the erstwhile Congress-led government started four new water supply projects to provide affordable, safe and uninterrupted water to the residents of the city.

Way back in 2009, the then Congress Government initiated four ambitious schemes–the ‘South West Guwahati Water Supply Project’ funded by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the ‘South Central Guwahati Water Supply Project’ and the ‘North Guwahati Water Supply Project’ funded by the JICA and the ‘South East Guwahati Water Supply Project’ funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Though the state government claimed that almost 96 per cent work of the ‘South West Guwahati Water Supply Project’ has been completed however according to reports only 50 per cent work of the ‘South Central Guwahati Water Supply Project’, the ‘North Guwahati Water Supply Project’ and the ‘South East Guwahati Water Supply Project’ have been completed.

The residents of Guwahati are unlikely to get potable water at their doorstep before 2025. If a government during its long tenure could not complete essential water supply projects that are pending for decades at the capital city, how come they assure development and growth to the entire state!

Kishor Kumar Kalita

Kishor Kumar Kalita is a commentator based in Guwahati and can be reached at kishorassam@gmail.com