No end likely to Delhi’s water crisis

No end likely to Delhi’s water crisis

With increasing power cuts and high distribution losses in summers, the capital’s water problems are rising.
The national capital’s water woes are rising as the mercury inches higher, with increasing power cuts and high distribution losses making the situation worse.
Delhi loses around 40% of the water supplied to it by way of distribution losses, according to official estimates. Even after the Delhi government announced its scheme to supply clean drinking water to every household by 2017, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has not produced a concrete plan to tackle distribution losses in its system. The DJB estimates the capital’s peak water demand to be around 1,040 million gallons per day (MGD) with an installed capacity for water supply at a maximum 903 MGD.
DJB officials told The Sunday Guardian that the areas reeling most under water shortage in Delhi include Sangam Vihar, Deoli, Raj Nagar Extension, Palam Vihar, Mahipalpur, Vasant Vihar, Vasant Kunj, Sainik Farms, Said-ul-Ajab, Greater Kailash, Panchsheel, Kalkaji and Govindpuri. Densely populated areas in Central Delhi and East Delhi like Chandni Chowk, Daryaganj, Paharganj, Mayur Vihar and Krishna Nagar also face a water crisis due to long power cuts. Sometimes, power cuts in these areas last up to 12 hours. DJB officials said that the recent disruption in water supply from the Munak canal has severely hit the water supply in many parts of Delhi and as the work to restore supply continues, Delhiites have to bear the woes.
The Delhi government announced clean drinking water to every resident of Delhi by 2017, which means clean water for over 18 million people. The government didn’t announce the minimum per capita amount of water it plans to supply to Delhi. 
There is a network of 11,350 km for water supply mains in the capital, of which a major chunk is over 40 years old. This network is also prone to high leakage losses. Normally, the water losses are calculated by way of subtracting water billed or consumed from the water supplied. In Delhi, leakage losses cannot be calculated by this method as a majority of houses in the capital do not have working water meters.
Delhi’s economic survey 2014-15 observed: “The total distribution losses are of the order of 40% of the total water supplied. These are quite high compared to 10-20% in the developing countries. The distribution losses include losses due to leaking pipes and theft of water through unauthorised connections.”
Last year, the DJB had set up a leak detection and investigation cell. It claims to have replaced about 1,200 km length of old damaged and leaking water mains during the past five years. The DJB says that it expects to bring down the distribution losses to 20% in the near future.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced recently that 300 new unauthorised colonies will be provided piped water supply in 2016-17. He also added that the DJB will implement a comprehensive rainwater harvesting scheme along with plans for the revival of water bodies and a summer action plan. The government also engaged the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) to carry out all developmental work in unauthorised colonies.
Questioned on the steps taken by the Delhi government to decrease water losses and increase supply to residents, R.S. Tyagi, member Water Sources, Delhi government, said: “We are working on reducing losses as soon as we can. The Delhi government will supply clean drinking water to all as planned.”
Despite the efforts of the government, residents complain of water shortage in different parts of the city. “We have been having erratic water supply since the past two weeks. This usually happens every summer. Now we are expecting more power cuts. The situation gets more difficult every year. Even after having a metered connection, you cannot get water without using a water pump even once a year,” Anirudh Sharma, resident of Raj Nagar extension in Delhi, said.
As a result of shortage or absence of water supply in most summer days in these areas, residents have to resort to filling water from water tankers or buying bottled water from the market for drinking and cooking.
“It is mostly areas in south Delhi, ironically some of the upmarket residential pockets, which face the larger shortage. We don’t mind paying bills beyond the subsidised limit of 20 kilolitre per household. But, I don’t think that the DJB will be able to meet the requirements. It rarely does. We can afford to buy water from the market or pay for tankers. It is the economically weaker sections that face the brunt the most,” Devendra Kumar, who lives in Safdarjung Enclave and operates a small business, said.
In north Delhi and Trans-Yamuna regions, areas which are closer to Yamuna and several water treatment plants, the supply is not so bad, but shortage still affects residents. “Every house does not have a metered connection. There is a lot of water that is stolen. Sometimes leaks in pipelines are not attended to for weeks. Even though we have a good 6-8 hour water supply, in summers these areas often suffer 10-12 hour power cuts. In densely populated areas having bylanes, it’s really not possible to meet daily demands through tankers. Not everyone can jostle in the crowd for water as well. Most of the tankers that come to this area are also illegal and charge a lot of money,” Devika Chhabra, a homemaker and resident of Patparganj, said.   
The water supplied by the DJB covers over 2.7 million homes. The Master Plan 2021 of the Delhi Development Authority projects that the capital’s population will increase to around 23 million by 2020 and the water demand will be at least 1,320 MGD. The government’s plans to bridge this gap is on even distant sources of water supply, like the Renuka dam which is planned in Himachal Pradesh.

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While the desire to supply water to all households in Delhi is admirable, where is the water going to come from? The NCR does not have water resources commensurate to the demand. Additionally, the provision for sewerage is laughable at best. Unless the Delhi NCR makes an immediate and massive investment in upgrading the infrastructure of water in the NCR, including that of sewerage, all these promises by the authorities will remain unfulfilled.

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