By Dr. Gyan Pathak
The National Capital Territory of Delhi is in the first leg of a colossal water crisis, almost a month earlier than the time it had hit last year, thanks to the unprecedented rise in temperatures in the country in February that broke all records kept since 1901. Water supply has been affected from around February 10.
Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had issued its first SOS on water supply on February 25, when it said that water supply had been affected over the preceding fortnight. Water supply has been further disrupted in large parts of the city from the beginning of March. Some areas have even received contaminated water, while many areas are being supplied with very limited quantity of water.
The Delhi Government, which now effectively means the Lieutenant Governor (LG), finds faults with city’s political rulers in the Aam Aadmi Party, while AAP has accused the LG of playing politics to save the BJP rulers of Haryana, the state that has greatly contributed to the water woes of Delhi. In the slugfest between the two, Delhi continues to suffer. There is little action on the ground to resolve the issue, and hence the national capital is likely to suffer a severe water crisis ahead in the coming months.
Since the water woes in Delhi is not a new development, it occurs every year, the blame-game cannot veil the inaction and mismanagement of water resources in the city. Both the BJP and the AAP are responsible for it, since they have been ruling the Centre and the state of Delhi and Haryana for nine years. They are obviously interested more in politics and blame-game rather than solving the water woes of the national capital.
Daily water demand in Delhi is about 1,150 million gallons per day (mgd), but only 935 mgd of water is supplied. It heavily depends on Yamuna though the river water is highly polluted, since only 3 of the 34 tehsils in the city are within safe limits of groundwater.
The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has said in its latest report that the year 2021-22 recorded rise in ground water level which is now available at a depth of 5 and 10 metres below ground level, but only in nearly a third of its area. Moreover, the ground water contaminations are posing a serious concern because most of Delhi 31 out of 34 tehsils have polluted water. Even though total extraction of underground water was 0.29 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2020 as against recharge of 0.32 bcm.
It is in this dire situation, water crisis in the beginning of March is a matter of great concern, as the months ahead are likely to be hotter this year according to IMD warning. It would further deplete the groundwater and river water levels bringing great hardship to the people. Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has already started “rationalization” of water supply, which is nothing but rationing of water supply.
DJB relies on the Yamuna for roughly 40 per cent of the water it supplies, and it comes from the upstream in Haryana. The allocation of river water to Delhi is based on anMoU signed in 1994 among Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
Water level in Yamuna has already depleted to a low level. Moreover, there is a severe problem of contaminated water because untreated water is drained down into the river both in Delhi and upstream in Haryana. It has affected the Wazirabad and Chandrawal water treatment plants that supply water to large parts of South, Central, and North Delhi. The crisis can just be imagined by the fact that as on March 12, the Wazirabad plant was supplying only 83 mgd water as against the normal level of 134.5 mgd.
High level of pollutants in the Yamuna water has made the situation worse. The Yamuna water is being diluted by mixing water from other sources so that it can be treated. This not only brings the quantity of treated water to a very low level, but it also reduces the pressure of water supply. Indications abound that the national capital is heading towards an unprecedented water crisis this year.
LG V K Saxena has shot a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asking him to fix the problem. He finds the water crisis in Delhi is due to “neglect” of the AAP leadership, while AAP alleges “cheap politics” played by LG to protect BJP government in Haryana which is responsible for the present water crisis in Delhi.
LG has even cited “criminal neglect” of Wazirabad treatment plant. He has flagged “gross inaction” by DJB in cleaning the reservoir behind Wazirabad barrage that supplies water to both the Wazirabad and Chandrawal water treatment plants.
It should be noted that LG is also the chairman of the high-level committee for Yamuna cleaning, which was constituted by the National Green Tribunal. Hence, he cannot shift the blame of inaction entirely to others. LG has also raised the issue of corroding and leaking pipelines that have led to shortage of supply of raw water to the water treatment plants. It should also be noted that DJP operates nine water treatment plants, and the performance of the plants are far below that their capacity.
Minister of Water, Delhi, Saurabh Bharadwaj has alleged that Haryana has been engaged in construction of bunds and illegal sand mining along with discharge of untreated drain water into the Yamuna that has created the problem. Haryana government in turn has said that they have been giving Delhi 1050 cusec water compared to 719 cusec required to be released as per the agreement.
However, Delhi has said that water released from upstream from Hathnikund and Tejawala is not reaching Delhi due to construction of bunds across the river and deep pits right in the river bed and floodplains. Delhi has demanded for a joint inspection to ascertain the responsibility of draining down the contaminated water and the supply of water to Delhi.
There is no denying the fact that Delhi’s water treatment plants are “outdated” as LG has pointed out, but then who is responsible to provide Delhi modern treatment plants for both river and drain water? The BJP-led Centre working by proxy through LG and AAP political establishment in Delhi are clearly to blame for mismanagement of water resources in the National Capital. (IPA Service)