Abstract

This study examines the water supply systems, their sociopolitical dynamics, and the future of water management in two Indian towns in the Eastern Himalaya, Kalimpong in West Bengal and Singtam in Sikkim. The research was centred around issues of demand and supply, water scarcity and stress, equity, water governance, and the sustainable conservation and management of water resources in a climate change context. Methodologically based on surveys, focus group discussions, and key informants' interviews, this study finds that spring sources are drying alarmingly in Singtam, even as demand is increasing dramatically due to a floating population that is more than the number of local inhabitants. The town suffers from the lack of an adequate reservoir facility and the frequent damage of water supply pipes during the monsoon. Kalimpong faces acute water shortages all year round. The political tug of war between the state government agencies and the local government around the management and supply of water, declining water discharge in spring sources, the lack of water infrastructure for repair, maintenance, and supply, and the glaring inequity between the higher, middle, and lower income groups are the immediate issues around water in Kalimpong. The spring sources that supply drinking water to Kalimpong and Singtam need immediate conservation measures to arrest the declining state of discharge. Micro-planning at the local level, reviving drying springs, and the adoption of appropriate soil and water conservation practices on a watershed basis are all important ways forward. The development of water security plans and their strict enforcement through multi-institutional collaboration can contribute to improved water governance and socioecological restoration for sustainable water resources management.

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