Legacy Of Past Governments – A Water Starved Delhi

Delhi, the capital city is reeling under a water crisis, and the water woes start increasing as the summer months start approaching. The ever increasing population, concretization of all the green areas, massive deforestation, disappearance of traditional water harvesting structures and transformation of Yamuna into a sewer along with gross mismanagement of water resources by DJB has attributed to the present water crisis which has all the signs of mushrooming into a problem of mammoth proportions in the near future.

Considering the per capita requirement of 60 gallons per day, the total requirement of potable water of Delhi in 2013-2014 was 1039 MGD against which DJB produced 833 MGD of which 78.5 MGD was sourced from ranney wells and tube wells, the shortage being of 206 MGD i.e 19.8% of the total requirement.

According to the MOU signed between five basin states in May 1994, water allocation of Yamuna surface water to Delhi is .724 BCM (billion cubic meters) per year which has not been augmented for the past two decades, while the population in the same period has nearly doubled, putting pressure on the resource. In order to utilize the flow of untapped water in the monsoon season, MOU’s were signed in Nov 1994 by the basin states to build 2 dams up the river Renuka (275 MGD) in Himachal Pradesh and Kishau (372 MGD) in Uttarkhand. The GNCTD had released an amount of 214 crore in October 2008 for construction of Renuka dam to Himachal Pradesh govt for exclusive use of Delhi. The project was to be completed by November 2014, but till date the project is awaiting Forest Clearance which was denied by UPA-2 Govt. 

The dispute regarding the ownership of the expected savings of 80 MGD of raw water between the Delhi and Haryana Governments over Munak Canal (which is nearly complete) is still unresolved.

This clearly indicates that there is not even an iota of hope that the supply of water for Delhi can be augmented through these projects in the near future while the population would be increasing at a rate of 1.92%.

Recently DDA has come out with a Draft Master Plan Delhi-2021, wherein it has envisioned a requirement of 1800 MGD for 23 million people in the year 2021. However, the water augmentation schedule proposed by DJB for the Draft Master Plan Delhi-2021 explicitly mentions that the capacity can be increased only to a maximum of 919 MGD from all possible sources, thus a deficit of 881 MGD. This increase in treated water supply can only be stretched to 919MGD, provided the WTP’s situated at Dwarka, Bawana and Okhla receive raw water from Munak canal, and for this the dispute between Delhi and Haryana Governments has to be resolved. 

The DJB is equally responsible for the water woes of Delhi. Delhi Jal Board’s dilapidated pipeline system and sub-standard management of water distribution has resulted in the mess a common Delhite finds himself in. It is a travesty that, the amount of water which can not be billed on account of transmission and distribution losses, illegal connections, water theft, metering inaccuracies etc is approx 60%. The loss of this non revenue attributed to a loss of 1389 crores in the year 2011-2012. The DJB has not come up with a visible concrete strategy to reduce the amount of this non revenue water which should be below 20 %( according to the handbook on Service Level Benchmarking). The prevalent shortage of water can be effectively countered by reducing the transmission and distribution losses which are alarmingly high. Due to the ineffective pipeline system of DJB, 24.8% households were not receiving piped treated water. The CAG report of 2013 states emphatically that these households were provided water through tankers, which was only 3.82 litres a day than the prescribed norm of 172 litres a day. The need of the hour is to lay out distribution lines at war footing.

The pumping of water into UGR’s and distribution lines is managed by 9 E&M divisions of DJB while the distribution lines are maintained by 22 civil divisions. Due to irrational assignment of jurisdictional areas to the divisions, the amount of water supplied to each division is not measurable. The DJB has neither a proper measurement system to measure the amount of water supplied to various areas nor reliable data about the population in different areas to regulate the supply of water equitably. This hap hazard allocation of jurisdictional areas to the divisions is the reason that the amount of water supplied to each division is not on account of the population residing in that particular area.

Proper distribution of jurisdictional areas to the divisions will aid in making individual Division accountable for water received, distributed, distribution losses etc. More over DJB lacks an effective management system that can indicate the real time information on the requirement, production and distribution of potable water etc at any given time. Such a management system can facilitate the DJB in providing potable water in proportion to the requirement of the area. Unless and until such management deficiencies are sorted out Delhi will continue to bear the brunt of erratic water supply.

Given the ever increasing demand of water for agriculture purposes in the basin states, it is prudent that Delhi Govt coin a long-term vision plan regarding revival of approximately 600 water bodies which are lying in various stages of neglect. The revival and integration of these water bodies in the water supply infrastructure will go a long way in recharging the ground water in the adjoining areas.

A futuristic vision detailing the broad contours of an aggressive Rain Water Harvesting Plan needs to be conceptualized and implemented strictly at the earliest by the government. Delhi receives 611 mm of rain per year and with a total land area of 1,486 sq km, has a water harvesting potential of 450 billion litres annually. If such a plan is implemented in all it’s earnest we can fulfill 35% of the water demand of Delhi through this endeavor alone.

It is high time the Govt recognizes this scarcity of water as a clear and present danger to our society and come up with a detailed action plan, not a “chalta hai” plan which we, “Delhi wallas” have always been subjected to lest Delhi would be a battleground in the near future and the prize would be a pale of water.

Citizen’s reporter
Ramandeep Singh Mann