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Impact of Urbanization on Portable Water in Sikkim, Himalayas.

The rapid increase in urban population in recent decades has led to increased pressure on the existing civic amenities. The United Nations (2008) projected that half of the world population would live in urban centres by 2050. It is also forecasted that 64% and 86% of the developing and developed world will be urbanized. Water has been playing a central role in human societies. Water supply is one of the prime natural resource bases which are inevitable for the sustainability of human and environment health (Marobh et al., 2007). Hence, water management has become an issue of significant concern over the past several years. According to the World Bank (2013), urban water consumption is likely to be doubled by 2015. Anthropogenic activities will lead to a massive and unsustainable gap between water supply and demand. Less than 2.5% of the water can be used and reused as fresh water. Less than half of that is readily or with some effort, accessible for drinking water supply and is unevenly and unfairly distributed (Leopold, 1997). Accroding to WHO (2004), around 884 million people in the world still do not get their drinking water from improved sources. India in 1981 launched the decade programme to supply safe drinking water through 100% coverage of urban and rural areas by piped water supply (Khadse et al., 2011). To achieve the mandate, conservation and preservation of water quality in the supply system is significant.

Agenda 21 of the UN Department of Sustainable Development, 1992, has worked out the Dublin Principles for IWRM in more detail for urban areas. One of the objectives of Agenda 21 is to develop environmentally sound management of water resource for urban use. Meeting the increasing demand for water services, while sustainably managing the water resources, can be a tremendous challenge for many countries. Hence, proper water management is the need of the hour.

Gangtok, city of Sikkim state is facing the problem of inadequate water supply and demand due to urban sprawl. The urban population of Sikkim increased from 37006 in 1991 to 122487 in 2011 (Primary Census Abstract, 2011). It has risen by 153%, between 2001 and 2011. Therefore, the present study addresses the impact of urbanization on the potable water resources in Gangtok city of Sikkim state. The main aim of this study is to judge the water quality changes and the gap between water supply and demand, which is beneficial in deciding appropriate remedial measures for conservation of water resources.

The Study Area

Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim,is located at 27.33[degrees]N and 88.62[degrees]E and has 122487 persons. It is situated in the lower Himalayas at an altitude of 1800m. The sex ratio of Gangtok city is 912 females per 1000 males. The average literacy rate of the Gangtok town is 82%, which shows a good literacy rate. The city is surrounded on the East and West by two streams, i.e., Roro Chu and Ranikhola, respectively. Both the streams meet at Ranipool and flow south as the main Ranikhola before it joins the Teesta at Singtam. The West-East or Southerly facing slopes of Gangtok and its suburbs, forms part of the inner belt with low to medium grade metamorphic rocks, and few areas are covered with schist and Darjeeling gneisses. The main Gangtok town stands over the intrusive lingtse granite gneiss. Gangtok enjoys a mild, temperate climate all year round. The mean temperature of Gangtok city ranges from 22[degrees]C in summer to 4.3[degrees]C in winter.


The present study is based on both primary and secondary data sources. The secondary data was collected from various sources viz., local water supply authorities, Department of Public and Health Engineering, Department of Forest, Department of Agriculture, Department of Urban Development and Housing, Government of Sikkim, Census handbook of India, etc. The primary data was collected from different stakeholders at the household level, government institutions, commercial setups and hotels of Gangtok city through questionnaires, group interviews and field observations. Primary data was obtained with close-ended and open-ended types of questionnaires and interviews. Close-ended types of questionnaires relating to the consumers contained the demand and consumption pattern, i.e., seasonal fluctuation in water demand and supply, duration of water supply, distance travelled to fetch water, income and expenditure on water supply, etc. An open-ended type of questionnaire was based on management aspects only. Stratified random sampling was chosen and 10 households were selected from each ward. Table 1 represents the demographic information of the selected respondents.
Table 1- Detail information of selected respondents of Gangtok City,

Parameters             Item                    Numbers  Percent

Gender                 Male                     69      46
                       Female                   81      54
Age                    18-29                    42      28
                       30-60                   106      70
                       >60                       2       1
Education              Primary School           17       5
                       Middle School or above  133      87
No. of Family Members  1-2 persons              21      14
                       3-6 person               99      66
                       >6 persons               30      20
Source of Income       Off-farm                138      92
                       Agriculture              12       8


Urbanization has been closely connected to industrialization in the major cities of the world. Urbanization has taken place in Gangtok not only city due to its being the state capital of Sikkim state, but also because it is the big commercial centre in the state, which attracted majority of the population for trade and employment. Over the years the population has been following an upward trend with the strengthening of the economic and commercial hub of the state. This led to the concentration of schools, colleges, university and health care facilities which act as a major pull factor in attracting people from rural areas. The population from 1991 to 2011 has increased fourfold, the number of the households has increased three times, with a growth percentage of 178: from 2001-2011. It reflects the spatial expansion and clearing of vegetative cover for construction purposes. The urban population growth rate in the last decade has been recorded highest (200%) in Gangtok city. This unprecedented growth has led to tremendous pressure on the limited urban resources. Rapid urban expansion has led to encroachment and development of unstable terrain and reduced green areas. Due to the unprecedented growth of urban population, Gangtok city generated about 390 grams per capita per day solid waste. The estimated waste generation per day in Gangtok and adjoining areas is approximately 45 metric tons per day (Government of Sikkim, 2007). Although incineration of unassailable waste is not recommended as a method of solid waste disposal, incineration of biomedical waste is however strongly recommended for maintenance of health of the citizens.

Water Supply and Demand Analysis

Water supply and demand are phenomena that are indispensable to the urbanization processes. The two main agencies viz., Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) and Municipal Corporation, Gangtok, are responsible for supplying drinking water in Gangtok city using surface water (rivers/streams and lakes). There are about 40 seasonal local springs which are utilized by the Rural Management and Development Department of Sikkim Government to supply water to outlying rural areas. The water distribution system was laid as early as in the year 1968 in the city (IEE, 2011). The source of water for Gangtok is Lake Tamze (3800m asl) which is 52km from Selep Water Treatment Plant. River Ratey Chu originates from Lake Tamze and serves as a tapping point for Gangtok water supply. The total water supply in the city is 25 MLD of actual raw water supply from Rateychu to Selep water treatment plant at Gangtok.

The Selep water treatment plant was constructed in 1976 with a capacity of 4.5 MLD. The maintenance of raw water mains is severely affected due to landslides and hostile conditions of the approach road. The Gl main from Selep to RateyChu was last changed in 1994 and had reached the age of 25 years with its carrying capacity of 200 Ips. By the end of 2042, the demand for drinking water would rise to 40.34 MLD. Thus, if no additional Raw Water Mains are added by the year 2042, Gangtok will face an acute shortage of treated water. Hence, the replacement of raw water mains and augmentation of the existing facility at Selep Water Treatment Plant would be needed to meet the demand.

Water demand for Gangtok has been estimated based on the guidelines laid down in the Manual of Water Supply and Treatment published by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. The Recommendation as per the Central Public Health and Engineering Organization is presented in Table 2.
Table 2- Recommendations as per the CPHEEO

S.   Classification of Towns and Cities                    Recommended
No.                                                        Maximum Water
                                                           Supply (Ipcd)

1    Towns provided with piped water supply but without a   70
     sewerage system
2    Cities provided with piped water supply and with      135
     existing/contemplated sewerage system
3    Metropolitan and Megacities provided
     with piped water supply                               150
     and where the sewerage system is

Table 3 shows the consumption of water after the CPHEEO guideline of 135 Ipc daily at present and the projected water consumption for three decades in the future, considering the population trend that has been projected with the base of the current population growth rate and the projected water in MLD. The above population projection shows an increase in the population in the wards of Development area, Diesel Powerhouse, Lower M.G. Marg, Upper Sichey and Deorali followed by a proportional water use of 1.58 MLD in Development area and Diesel Power House, 1.48 MLD at Lower M.G. Marg and 1.29 MLD at Deorali.
Table 3- Ward wise projected water demand in Gangtok City

Name of Ward        Projected Population  Water demand @135 Ipcd
                      2027     2042       2012   2027   2042

Burtuk               14455    18580        1.40   1.95   2.51
Upper Sichey         15775    20276        1.53   2.13   2.74
Lower Sichey         11030    14177        1.07   1.49   1.91
Chandmari            10260    13188        0.99   1.39   1.78
Development Area     16337    20999        1.58   2.21   2.83
Diesel Power House   16301    20952        1.58   2.20   2.83
Arithang             10617    13646        1.03   1.43   1.84
Lower M.G. Marg      15318    19689        1.48   2.07   2.66
Upper M.G. Marg      12213    15698        1.18   1.65   2.12
Tibet Road           11708    15049        1.13   1.58   2.03
Deorali              13352    17161        1.29   1.80   2.32
Daragaon              5918     7607        0.57   0.80   1.03
Tadong                9821    12623        0.95   1.33   1,70
Ranipool              7475     9608        0.72   1.01   1.30
TathangchenSyari      9919    12750        0.96   1.34   1.72
Total               180500   232000       17.48  24.37  31.32

Source: NERCCDIP Report

Water Supply Distribution System

The purpose of the distribution system is to deliver water to the consumer with appropriate quality, quantity, and pressure. The distribution system is used to describe collectively the facilities used to supply water from the source to the point of usage. The water supply system in Gangtok follows a gridiron system which maintains the proper circulation of water due to an absence of dead ends and in the case of a breakdown in some section; water is available from some other direction. The existing water distribution system that caters to the Gangtok Municipal Area comprises of (i) primary network, about 34km existing and (ii) secondary network about 43km existing. The present distribution system consists of bunches of 20 or 25mm Gl pipes drawn from the main service reservoirs or distribution tanks to each consumer. This system needs to be replaced by a looped system with proper hydraulic zoning, which will ensure an equitable supply with adequate and equal terminal pressure. Water for each zone will be supplied from a zonal tank.

Water Pricing

The provision and management of efficient pricing systems vary with different states. Tariff rates are basically set by the water or sanitation provider or by the national or local governments through national or state policy. The state governments are responsible for establishing an urban water tariff structure, and the result is a wide variety of practice. Average tariffs in India are low, relative to the cost.

The proposed tariff and revenue generation is based on the assumption that 80% of the population will pay water charges at the initial stage, 90% will pay at the middle stage and 100% population will pay at the ultimate stage with the measure of Increasing Block Tariff. The rates fixed are also not revised frequently to reflect the general costs, widening the gap between the cost of production and tariff charged. Water connection charges are collected from the users based on the number of connections per building. The tariff charge is collected based on the number of taps provided as presented in Table 4. Lack of metering is an issue in Sikkim, and this also leads to a lot of water going undetected and unaccounted. Further, the lack of pricing and regulation of water contributes to the overuse of water resources. Therefore, it is suggested that water regulators should properly price the water for household, industries, and irrigation.
Table 4- Tariff chart in Gangtok City, Sikkim

Tap-based tariff   Domestic                  Commercial
Number of Taps

1 to 3             Rs. 80/- per month        Rs. 160/- per month
4 to 7             Rs. 130/- per month       Rs. 260/- per month
8 to 12            Rs. 225/- per month       Rs. 350/- per month
Volumetric tariff
Domestic           Rs. 5/- per 1000 litres
Commercial         Rs. 10/- per 1000 litres
Bulk supply        Rs. 12/- per 1000 litres

Consumer Behavior on Water Use

The residents of Gangtok city are highly dependent on the quality and quantity of water supplied by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) or the natural springs. Natural springs are one of the essential sources of water for the residents of the city. About 85% of the respondents were dependent on the water supplied by PHED and about 11% met their demand from natural springs. The consumer satisfaction survey was conducted to know their view regarding water supply in the city from May to September and October to April season. The majority of the respondents are least satisfied during the monsoon months, which can be attributed to the frequent damage to the supply network. About 77% of respondents are moderately satisfied during October to April. It was observed during the field survey that about 96% of the respondents are connected with proper water supply pipeline. It was also noted that households with proper pipeline connections were also dependent on the springs as a means to conserve water in their houses.

The respondents of the city received water in varied duration. Out of 144 households surveyed, 23 households received water for only 40 minutes to one hour, 65 household received water for 2-3 hours and 58 households for 3-4 hours per day depending on the socio-economic conditions of the residents. The period of water supply is not satisfactory

for those who receive water for less than one hour. The water supply duration shows an inverse relationship with the location and the high density populated wards. Water utilization for domestic purposes includes cleaning and cooking in the household. Table 5 gives an idea about water requirement per person per day (litres).
Table 5 Water requirement per person per day (litres)

Parameters         Consumption (Ipcd)

Cooking              5
Washing utensils    10
Drinking             5
Washing cloths      20
Bathing purpose     55
Lawns               10
Flushing latrines   30
Total              135

Source: Agor, 2009

The residents of the city faced seasonal water scarcity due to pipeline damaged during the rainy season. Apart from that, about 23% of respondents reported that they are facing water shortage during the winter season and 29% during the summer season. About 53% of low-income group respondents spend Rs.80-130/- per month on water charges, followed by 41% middle income group and 6% high-income group.

Various optimization measures have been undertaken by local residents. About 98% of the respondents practice water management. Majority of the households practice rooftop water harvesting to conserve the water. Other measures include avoiding overflow and checking leakages, using ball cock in the water tanks, using a ferrule valve in the tank pipe, using a bucket while bathing, using sprinkler instead of watering plants directly with a hose. Leakage caused due to faulty taps and toilet flushes are the primary cause of water scarcity in a household. Introducing and involving gender dimensions and participants of lower income group in mainstream policy and programmes can help the decisions makers in incorporating the most affected population to formulate an effective solution.

Physio-chemical and Bacteriological Properties

The results of physio-chemical and bacteriological analyses are presented in Table 6. The pH of the water tested in 15 sampling stations at Gangtok city showed that the pH is within the permissible limit of 6.8 to 8.5 in the majority of the stations. The highest value of turbidity ranged from 8.8 to 8.9, but the turbidity levels showed considerable reductions after the treatment of water at Selep WTP i.e. 5.6 to 5.7. Sulphate occurs naturally in numerous minerals including barite, epsomite, and gypsum. These dissolved minerals contribute to many drinking water problems. Selep water tank has the highest amount of sulphate per litre with 3.8 mg/l in the pre-monsoon and 0.7mg/l in the monsoon season. Nitrate is higher in Ratey Chu in both the seasons and ranged from 4.4mg/l in pre-monsoon to 0.45mg/l in monsoon season. The temperature of the water during pre and monsoon season was constant and varied between 17-15[degrees]C in all the sampling stations. No significant change was observed in raw water quality on a day-to-day basis. A similar observation was reported by Khadse et al. (2011).

The bacteriological parameters i.e., total coliform and fecal coliform of sampled water were analyzed and presented in Table 6 (given in Annexure-1). Total coliform is used as a general indicator of potential contamination with pathogenic organisms. However, many coliform bacteria live in the soil and these organisms may be the source of those that appear in surface water. Table 5 indicates a high level of contamination of total coliform and fecal coliform at Ratey Chu. The presence of fecal conforms in the tanks after passing through the treatment process also calls for immediate attention as it poses a looming threat to the health of the consumers.
Table 6- Water quality of treatment plant at Gangtok City, Sikkim

Treatment     pH                Turbidity         Sulphate
plants        Pre-     Monsoon  Pre-     Monsoon  Pre-     Monsoon
              monsoon           monsoon           monsoon

Rateychu      8.4      8.2      8.8      8.9      1.6      0.2
Selep         7.5      7.7      5.6      5.7      3.8      0.7
Enchey        7.3      7.3      5.1      5.4      2.4      0.3
Enchey        7.4      7.4      5.0      5.1      -        -
Tibet Road    7.0      7.2      2.4      2.9      2.9      0.6
Tibet Road    7.1      7.3      3.2      3.8      -        -
Branch of     7.3      7.0      3.7      3.5      -        -
Branch of     7.1      7.1      4.3      4.8      -        -
Court, 3&4"
GICI Tank     6.9      7.5      3.6      3.7      -        -
Deorali       7.2      7.2      3.8      3.5      2.2      0.1
Press         8.1      8.0      5.3      5.5      -        -
Housing       7.7      7.0      4.8      4.3      3.4      0.4
Housing       7.3      7.3      5.1      5.7      -        -
colony Tap
Tadong        7.1      7.1      3.1      4.6      -        -
Development   7.6      7.2      3.9      4.9      -        -

Treatment     Nitrate           Temp [degrees]C   Conductivity
plants        Pre-     Monsoon                    (us/cm)
              monsoon           Pre-     Monsoon  Pre-     Monsoon
                                monsoon           monsoon

Rateychu      4.4      0.45     16.0     2.4      3.5      3.5
Selep         2.7      0.39     16.5     12.9     3.8      3.0
Enchey        2.9      0.42     16.9     12.7     3.1      2.9
Enchey        -        -        16.4     12.6     2.9      3.5
Tibet Road    2.4      0.41     17.0     12.3     4.0      3.7
Tibet Road    -        -        17.1     12.6     3.7      3.2
Branch of     -        -        16.8     13.0     3.0      3.1
Branch of     -        -        16.3     12.8     2.4      4.0
Court, 3&4"
GICI Tank     -        -        17.3     12.3     2.5      3.8
Deorali       3.1      0.37     16.8     13.1     2.8      3.4
Press         -        -        16.9     13.2     3.2      3.5
Housing       2.7      0.67     17.2     12.8     4.0      4.2
Housing       -        -        16.8     12.6     3.5      2.8
colony Tap
Tadong        -        -        15.9     12.7     2.6      2.3
Development   -        -        16.8     13.2     3.6      3.0

Treatment     Total Coli Form   Faecal Coli
plants        (less 10, CFU)    Form
              Pre-     Monsoon  Pre-     Monsoon
              monsoon           monsoon

Rateychu      19       21       4        4
Selep         14       14       3        3
Enchey         9        8       1        1
Enchey         8       13       3        2
Tibet Road     6       10       1        1
Tibet Road    11       11       2        2
Branch of      7        7       1        1
Branch of      8        8       2        2
Court, 3&4"
GICI Tank      6        5       1        1
Deorali        8        6       3        2
Press         14       12       3        3
Housing       11       10       2        2
Housing        5        5       1        1
colony Tap
Tadong         3        3       1        1
Development    7        7       2        2

Source: Rai, 2016


The study revealed that the water supplied through the distribution network was not up to the BIS water quality standard for physio-chemical and bacterial quality. The awareness about drinking water quality is highest among high-income group and educated people and least among illiterate people. The monitoring of water quality from time to time will lead to safety and better health of the community. The proper maintenance of the distribution network system, awareness about the hygienic and sanitary conditions, and adequate storage of water will help in maintaining water quality. Necessary measures need to be undertaken at places where fecal contamination was present, to avoid any adverse impact on human health. Introducing and involving gender dimensions and participants of the lower income group in policy and programmes can help the decisions makers in incorporating the most affected population to formulate an effective solution.


We are thankful to the Head, Department of Geography, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi for providing facilities.


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Khadse, G., Pimpalker, S.N., Kalita, M. and Labhsetwar, P.K. (2011): Drinking water quality monitoring and surveliance for safe water supply in Gangtok, India. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 178(1-4):401-414. Doi:10.1007/s10661-010-1699-6

Leopold, L.B. (1997): Water, River and Creeks. Oxford University Press.

Marobh, N.J., Renman, G., Jacks, G. (2007): The study of water supply and traditional water purification knowledge in selected rural villages in Tanzania. Indigenous knowledge systems and sustainable development: relevance of Africa, Emmanuel K. Boon and Luc Hens (eds.). Kamla-Raj Enterprises. Tribes Tribals 1:111-120, Chapter 11.

Rai, Smriti (2016): Impact of Urbanization on Potable Water in Gangtok, Sikkim. Unpublished M. Phil. Dissertation, Department of Geography, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.

WHO (2004): Guidelines for drinking water quality: vol.1 Recommendations (3rd edition). Geneva: World Health Organization.

World Bank (2013): Retried on 19th March 2014.
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Author:Rai, S.C.; Rai, Smriti
Publication:Political Economy Journal of India
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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