Pipe-borne salty water unfit for drinking: Kalutara District residents

By Himal Kotelawala, Pix by Saman Kariyawasam

The regular pipe-borne water supply to Wadduwa, Kalutara, Beruwala and its immediate surroundings has become contaminated with salt water and, as a result, it is impossible to drink this water.

Residents are forced to collect drinking water from wells situated at a distance, they complain.

According to the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) the contamination is due to sea water flowing into the Kalu Ganga from which water is pumped, as a result of reduced water levels in the river.

Sand mining in the Kalu Ganga which is claimed to result in lowering the water level in the river.
A woman drawing water from a tap connected to the water supply from Naurdeen’s perennial well
A woman living in an urban area trudging with pot and can to fetch clean water

The authorities blame the ongoing dry weather for this sudden decrease in the river’s water levels.

NWSDB General Manager Lal Premanath told The Sunday Times this trend might continue till the weather takes a turn for the better.

M. S. M. Arfath who works at a hardware store in the Beruwala town said the problem started about one and a half months ago when the tap water began to taste salty. Now he has discontinued using the water for drinking, opting to bring water in bottled form, drawn from distant wells, he said.

“The water supply is not regular and it tastes salty. We drink water drawn from wells. We use the tap water only to wash our clothes,” he said.

Residents and townspeople of Beruwala said that there are no wells to be found in the town area, and even villagers who live on the outskirts of the town are forced to travel long distances in search of safe water.

H. Albert, a villager from Paranakade said his family has to spend a lot of time, effort and money to bring home water that is safe for consumption and cooking purposes. “There isn’t enough water in the wells that we draw water from, because of the dry weather and water bowsers don’t come this way often enough,” she said.

The NWSDB said last week that it had taken steps to deliver clean water, using water bowsers, to households in affected areas. However, residents of some of the affected areas said bowsers didn’t come their way at all.

Water Board GM Lal Premanath said that steps would soon be taken to ensure that bowsers are sent to all affected areas including Paranakade and the Maradana housing scheme.

Meanwhile residents of Moliyawala have turned to a man from the village for clean water. M. F. M. Naurdeen has generously allowed anyone seeking clean water to freely enter his premises and draw as much water as needed from his well. He has even installed a motor to pump the water so that clean water is available at the turn of a tap.

Naurdeen’s brother-in-law Mohamed Rumy told The Sunday Times that everyone from the surroundings, irrespective of race or religion, come to Naurdeen’s well to fill their containers with water.
Meanwhile, Mr. Premanath said that as a permanent solution to the problem the NWSDB is looking at the possibility of shifting the current location of its water pump, further up the river.

“We will have to pump water from a location about 14 kilometres up river from the current location. However we will continue to supply clean water using bowsers to areas like Beruwala, which are specially affected,” he said.

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