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The Parched Tiger: Delhi Water Crisis Grows

Via The Times of India, another report on the country’s water crisis:

Haryana has tightened the water squeeze on Delhi. On Wednesday, it curtailed supply to the capital’s Wazirabad pond where the level fell from the mandated 674.5 feet to 672.8 feet. The city has been reeling under shortage of water since two weeks back when Haryana reduced its supply to the Haiderpur water treatment plant. Large parts of the city, including south, southwest, west and NDMC areas, are parched.

The capital has been demanding its fair share of 80 million gallons daily from the newly-constructed Munak canal but Haryana has refused to turn the tap any further, claiming that Delhi is withdrawing more than its allocated share. Delhi officials have taken up the matter with the prime minister and are even contemplating approaching Supreme Court.

If Delhi had only taken the task of reducing its transmission losses seriously, the crisis won’t be so grave. An IIT-D report claims that these losses are a massive 40%. By DJB’s own admission, the water it loses through leaks and other unaccountable means is 30% of what’s available. With a total of 845 MGD available for supply, the city it seems gets just 510-590 MGD.

For now, Delhi can only blame Haryana. “Against the mandated 425 cusec, Haryana has been supplying only 385 cusec for the Haiderpur plant for the past several days. Haryana is right in saying that they are maintaining the canal level but they are actively restricting the water from entering Delhi’s system. Production at the plant has dropped by18 MGD and more than a lakh people have been affected. We have approached the Upper Yamuna River Board and ministry of water resources for help,” said DJB officials.

Senior DJB officials claim the situation this year is actually better than 2011 and more areas have been brought into the network. “Since 2011, 783 unauthorised colonies with a few lakh people have been covered by the water network. However, there has been no increase in supply during this period,” said an official.

Independent experts say Delhi, which is already enjoying an average of 229 litres per capita per day (lpcd) against a standard of 135 lpcd, is not really short of water. “There are undoubtedly huge inequities in the supply system but if all leaks were to be plugged and DJB adopted a more efficient system of supply, a lot of the water worries would be over,” said a Central Ground Water Authority official.

IIT Delhi’s civil engineering department’s analysis of unaccounted for water (UFW) in Delhi says it is as high as 40%. In fact, professor AK Mittal of the IIT team claims the figure is probably higher than 40%. “I would say there is no water shortage in Delhi. The gap between how much water is produced and how much reaches the consumer is huge. More than 40% of the water doesn’t reach consumers. Leakage is only one reason. There are many others like tankers, illegal connections, theft, maintenance problems etc,” points out Mittal. According to Delhi Jal Board estimates, however, we lose around 30% of the water to leakages and other transmission losses.

Despite severe shortage of water, recycled sewage water which can be extensively used for non-drinking purposes is not utilized. The IIT team is currently working on a research project to asses the potential of using treated sewage water in Delhi. “We don’t use even 10% of the sewage we generate. At least institutions like the railways, DMRC and industries can use recycled sewage water. Even if we utilize 50% of sewage water we generate, it will help meet the demand-supply gap,” adds Mittal. He add that Delhi’s water charges were much lower compared to Chennai, Bangalore or Mumbai which only encourages wastage.

Every summer it’s the same story. Swathes of the city go dry, Delhi fights with Haryana and UP for more supplies, but nothing really is done to see that the situation gets better the next year. For starters, we suggest that the Delhi government make rainwater harvesting compulsory for all buildings – commercial and residential. Sheila Dikshit should put her foot down and ensure that this happens. It may not fully solve Delhi’s water crisis, but will certainly mitigate the problem. If cities like Chennai and Hyderabad can make rainwater harvesting compulsory, why can’t Delhi?

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 16th, 2012 at 3:55 am and is filed under India.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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