Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has offered to send 10 lakh litres of water every day for the next two months to Latur district in Maharashtra, at a time when Delhi is reeling under a severe water crisis, a crisis that is all set to aggravate as extreme summer heat dries up the city’s water resources. Even otherwise, Delhi has to depend on the neighbouring state of Haryana for a regular supply of water. Worse, the Delhi government is yet to declare its detailed “Summer Action Plan” by which it tackles the water crisis in the city. The SAP’s plan is to ensure that the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is ready with its infrastructure to tackle the crisis. Delhi’s daily demand for water is around 1,050 MGD (million gallons daily), which jumps to around 1,200 MGD in summer. DJB chairperson and Water Resources Minister Kapil Mishra said in February that the plan would be prepared soon. In 2015, the plan was decided on 31 March.
According to a source, the DJB is still in the process of drawing up the action plan. In the last one year, more than 200 new colonies, most of them unauthorised, have been added to Delhi’s water supply network, adding to the pressure on the existing system. Moreover, there is an acute shortage of water tankers in the wake of a Supreme Court order banning vehicles more than 10 years old. The source added, “Instead of filing a special leave petition (SLP) before the court requesting for the exemption from the order to ensure that even old water tankers move, given the seriousness of the issue in Delhi, the government is focusing on how to send water tankers to Latur, despite the fact that Maharashtra government has made it clear that it does not require any such assistance.”
Complaints of water shortage have started pouring in from different areas, mainly from South Delhi and Outer Delhi localities. Some such areas are Sangam Vihar, Vasant Vihar, Munirka, Vasant Kunj, Kalkaji, Raj Nagar Extension (Palam), Bakkarwala, Bawana, etc., even though it’s just the beginning of summer.
Sushmita Prasad, who lives on the IGNOU Road in Saket, said, “Our area does not have piped water connection. So we have to rely solely on water tankers. The tankers come and water is stored underground from where residents are provided water for daily consumption. Rs 1,000 a month is charged for the purpose.” Residents of the area complained of water supply being curtailed at the onset of summer and fear that thing will get worse in the coming days.
Ayush, a resident of Sangam Vihar, said: “Trouble has already started and we fear that the coming few days will be quite difficult. This has become a perpetual problem and we had hoped that the Aam Aadmi Party government would do something about it. But instead of thinking about us, they are sending water to another state. The Delhi government should first provide water to us.”
The source said that even the budget of Delhi Jal Board is not being passed. “Though the Delhi government has passed its budget and earmarked funds for DJB, the DJB cannot release even a single penny unless it is approved in the board meeting, since DJB is an autonomous organisation. The board meeting has not been convened until now even though summer has already started,” the source added.
As a result of this, developmental as well as routine works in the DJB have come to a halt. People living in JJ (jhuggi jhopri) clusters, unauthorised colonies and rural areas are facing an acute shortage of water. “There is also acute shortage of water tankers. The tanker mafia is ruling the roost. Illegal sale of water through private tankers is going on without any check,” is the general complaint.
Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that he was ready to send water to Latur. However, Ministry of Railway is already working on this and has sent three special trains to Latur, each with five lakh litres of water. The Chief Minister has admitted that Delhi itself faces a tight situation in terms of water. However, he said that the condition in Latur, where over 12 lakh residents are struggling for drinking water, is horrifying and it was every citizen’s responsibility to help.
Senior BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, Vijender Gupta said that Kejriwal was trying to derive political mileage from the suffering of Latur’s people. “It was insensitive on his part to take the matter directly to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has already outlined his plans to provide a solution to the water crisis in Maharashtra, Bundelkhand, Telangana, etc. The Delhi CM is not bothered about the people of Delhi. He is only interested in pomp and show. He should first provide water to the people of Delhi,” he said.
Water Resources Minister Kapil Mishra, however, claimed that Delhi had sufficient water. He recently told a news agency that there was no crisis. “The crisis is of water management and distribution. This will be done away with the piped water supply network. Our aim is universal access to safe drinking water to each household in Delhi by 2017,” he said.