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A capital city — divided by water

10 Jun 2015, Hindustan Times (Delhi)
Mallica Joshi

A few high-profile areas get ample water while for others, it’s a daily struggle to get enough for basics

Surplus water supply in some areas, others have no option but to tap groundwater NEW DELHI: Last summer, the borewell in Tarun Khanna’s Hauz Rani home stood at 200 feet. This year, as soon as summers started, he had to dig deeper to around 250 feet to extract water.

RAJ K RAJ / HT PHOTOSUnequal distribution of water is a big problem with some areas having the luxury of wasting potable water on activities like gardening and washing cars with others getting barely enough to meet the daily needs.

In the absence of Delhi Jal Board’s piped water supply, Khanna completely relies on groundwater to meet his and his family’s daily needs.

Khanna is not alone. His predicament is shared by hundreds of thousands who are out of the Delhi Jal Board’ water network. And as the population keeps on increasing every day, there is no corresponding increase in DJB’s water reach.

“If we were supplied water regularly, why would we need a borewell?” Khanna asks. His question becomes more pertinent considering there are areas in the city that get more than their fair share each day.

According to some studies, the Delhi Cantonment and New Delhi Municipal Council areas get the maximum amount of water per day, with availability reaching over 500 litres per day per person in Delhi Cantt areas. NDMC areas, on the other hand, get about 220 litres of water per person per day. Narela, on the contrary, gets 31 litres and Mehrauli 29 litres.

Unequal distribution of water, according to experts, is among the biggest problems related to water supply in the city. It leads to a double whammy of groundwater depletion and water wastage.

“If you are not getting regular and adequate piped water supply, you will use illegal borewells. Conversely, you are more likely to waste water if you are getting an unlimited supply. This disparity is the first thing that needs to be addressed when it comes to Delhi’s water supply issues,” said water activist Manoj Misra.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India filed in 2013 drew attention to the issue of unequal water supply in the city.

The body received replies from 111 resident welfare associations (RWA) on the quality of service provided by the DJB, duration of the availability, sufficiency and quality of water supplied and the complaint redressal mechanism.

Eighty-seven RWAs had claimed they did not receive sufficient water in summer. Around 78 RWAs had said they were not satisfied with the complaint redressal mechanism of the utility. As many as 64 RWAs claimed to have received water for less than two hours per day in summers.

The DJB, this year, has said that water supply will be rationalised under the Aam Aadmi Party regime.

“If water supply in one area will be affected because of shortage, it will be the same in the entire city. There will be no bias for or against anyone,” said DJB vice chairperson Kapil Mishra, echoing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Residents of areas like Tughlakabad and Deoli, however, still wait for tankers to deliver water, sometimes waiting for up to eight days.