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Fed up with Delhi Jal Botch-Up
New Delhi, June 16, 2012: It’s bad every summer. But this season the water shortage in the city was made worse by the tussle between Delhi and Haryana. And while the two neighbours try to sort out the dispute over sharing of Yamuna's water, tempers in some Delhi localities are getting frayed.
When Delhi's chief secretary P K Tripathi met his Haryana counterpar P K Chaudhery recently, his request that the neighbouring state should release more water was turned down. Chaudhery said his own state faced similar scarcity. There are indications that Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit wants the Centre to intervene in the quarrel.
According to Delhi Jal Board spokesperson issue Sanjam Cheema, Haryana right now is supplying only 385 cusec of water rather than the 425 cusec it shouild for Delhi's Haiderpur water treatment plant.
As a result, the production at Haiderpur has come down to 192 million gallons a day (MGD) as against the normal 210 MGD.
“The shortage of 18 MGD results in shortage of water causing hardship to a population of approximately one million people, particularly in view of the rising temperatures in Delhi.
Close to five lakh people get added to the city every year,” said Cheema.
Delhi wants its share of water from Munak canal – partly financed by the city government. It is also hinging hopes on the Renuka dam project in Himachal Pradesh for ensuring that there is adequate water supply in coming years. But both projects are mired in inter-state disputes.
To deal with the current crisis, DJB has ‘rationalised’ supply, curtailing it in some areas for some time so that water reaches other colonies. Areas where the supply has been restricted include Khayala, Patel Nagar, Moti Nagar,Kirti Nagar, Narela, Bawana and Wazirabad.
The recent collapse of an under-construction building, which broke a major pipeline, seems to have aggravated the water crisis particularly in south Delhi – adding to the expected shortages during peak summer.
Relying heavily on neighbouring states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for raw water, the DJB plants treat about 3,100 million litres a day (MLD). But consumers receive only 58 per cent of what is treated.
According to a recent study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), though on paper only about 12 per cent of Delhi's water needs are met by groundwater reserves, the unofficial figure is about 50 per cent.
“The fact that commercial exploitation of groundwater is rampant in most parts shows that groundwater is meeting close to 50 per cent of Delhi's needs. The quality of groundwater is also a matter of concern. Because of the sewage that seeps into the water, it is too polluted to be potable,” said Nitya Jacob, programme director of water, CSE.
Anshuman, a water expert with The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) added that DJB does not focus on treating water for re-use.
Other environmentalists say half of the city's sewage remains untreated and is discharged into open drains, finds its way into Yamuna river or seeps into the ground leading to water pollution.
According to a recent TERI survey, drinking water and its availability was a big concern for Delhi residents with 69 per cent of the surveyed respondents believing that water quality had worsened.
Wastage and shortage
According to experts, demand of water in Delhi on an average day is around 4,800 million litres a day (MLD). But all that the city gets is 3,800 MLD.
Jacob said the leakage loss stated by the DJB is 52 per cent, when only 16 per cent is acceptable according to the union urban development ministry.
“This implies that the actual supply is around 1800 MLD.”
“And then there is water misuse by people who get adequate supply of water in different areas. People in areas on the outskirts of the city from Sangam Vihar to the airport and in places like Chattarpur, Najafgarh, Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj are highly exploited because of the shortage,” he said, referring in particular to private tankers which charge exorbitantly.
“Even Metro projects that use groundwater contribute to the shortage,” he added.
But DJB officials claim that they keep a regular check on leakages. When asked if Delhi wastes water, spokesperson Cheema echoed what CSE and TERI said. “We need to start saving water. Just like Delhi CM, who said that she uses half a bucket water for bathing, even we need to limit our water usage,” she said.
Experts pointed out that DJB also loses around 360 MLD from the Western Yamuna Canal.
Rainwater harvesting has been practised in India for last 4,000 years but for Delhi it has not been a priority yet.
Cheema said resident's welfare associations which approach DJB can get up to Rs 1 lakh from the government for setting rainwater harvesting.
But only 172 rainwater projects are in operation in the entire city, DJB officials informed. Experts agree that more than the government, people need to take the initiative on rainwater harvesting.
Delhi receives an annual rainfall of 611.8 mm in 27 rainy days during the year which can be easily stored for subsequent use for irrigation and recharging aquifers. “During the rainy season, the river Yamuna gets a huge amount of flood water which simply flows away but if stored, it can be vital,” said an expert from Toxics Link.
Compared to only a few years back, Delhiites pay much more for the water they get.
The tariff was as low as Rs 0.35 per kilolitre in 2005. A year later, the tariff was revised to Rs 2 per kl, which hardly helped as the production cost continued to be high at Rs 9 per kl. The tariff is now being hiked by 10 per cent every year.
According to a CSE report, nearly 79 per cent of the city’s water connections are metered, but most of the meters are either defective or non-functional.
“Working water meters cover only 35 per cent of the connections and less than 10 per cent are billed on actual reading. Interestingly, of the one million metered connections, meters provided by the government make up about 0.46 million, of which 0.3 million need to be replaced. In addition, about 0.15 million meters are old and defective,” says the report.
Jacob explained that DJB has been running into regular and steep losses.
“Cash revenues are generated from only 30 per cent of the water it produces. At present, the board owes a staggering Rs 6,000 crore to Delhi government. There also exists a large number of unauthorised connections,” he said.