DELHI Water Affecting People's & Nature
Delhi Government announced almost 700 litres of water for free per household every day, according to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, the raw water available is not enough to provide potable water to the entire population of Delhi, as per prescribed norms.
Drinking water was not being distributed equitably due to a lack of reliable data on population and water supply to different areas, according to the audit report. It added that 24.8 per cent of households in the Capital were being supplied water through tankers in the absence of pipelines, with the average per capita supply at 3.82 litres per day against the prescribed norm of 172 litres. The metering of water at the consumer end was not comprehensive due to which less than 40 per cent of water produced was billed during the past three years, said the report
The report observes that two dams were proposed on the Yamuna in 1994 to augment raw water in Delhi. These could not be constructed even after 18 years and incurring an expenditure of Rs.214 crore .The production of potable water at the water treatment plants and waste water recycling plants was also found to be below the designed capacity
The Delhi Human Development Report-2013 brought out by the Institute of Human Development is also in sync with the CAG findings on various water-related issues. According to the report, despite an improvement during 2001-11, access to water in Delhi is still not equitable, with unauthorised colonies and jhuggi jhonpri clusters having much poorer access to water supply compared to other settlements. The residents in these and some other settlements also suffer due to the poor quality of water. Deficit of raw water, leakage from pipelines and deteriorating quality of surface water of the Yamuna has also been highlighted.
Water distribution still is not equitable across the city, with the outskirts in North, North-West, North-East and southern districts receiving poor supply. “The poor and under-privileged in Delhi receive subsidised water, but it comes at a price, in terms of time and cost. Hours of waiting in queues at water points and fights around tankers are a common sight in the slums of Delhi….among the Delhi slums, which are solely dependent on government provisioning for water, just half the households have drinking water available within their premises and nearly 10 per cent have to go far away to fetch water. Observing that the continued flow of people from outside the city leads to an ever-increasing demand for drinking water, the report states that the existing production facilities cannot meet the requirement. The DJB estimates a distribution loss of around 40 per cent of the total water supplied owing to leakages. Besides, seven of the nine revenue districts are said to have poor groundwater availability. The South and South-West districts have been declared as notified areas wherein there is to be no more extraction of groundwater. East, New Delhi, North-East, North-West and West Delhi districts have also been declared as ‘over-exploited areas’ by the government, the report notes.
While a large part of the city is yet to receive metered pipeline supply, the Delhi Government, in the Twelfth Plan, envisages potable and safe drinking water for all residents, round-the-clock water supply in some pilot areas and more equitable distribution. Apart from meeting the Bureau of Indian Standards’ norms on water quality, it also plans to use treated waste water for all non-potable purposes and collect, treat and dispose through interceptor sewers and normal treatment network 95 per cent of the total sewage generated.
The DJB has also been contemplating a public-private partnership to improve the management of water and sewerage system
For the third time in the past 10 days, ammonia levels in the Wazirabad pond have overshot the permissible limits due to release of untreated industrial and domestic waste from Haryana. The DJB chief executive officer has also brought the matter to the attention of the Principal Secretary, Haryana Irrigation, and has requested him to take preventive measures as well as release an additional quantity of fresh water through drain number eight to dilute the pollution levels in the Wazirabad pond. The Principal Secretary, Haryana, informed him that additional water would be released to alleviate the problem.
A few days ago, the DJB was forced to cut down production at the two water treatment plants by half because of a spike in industrial pollutants in the Yamuna. Then also, the ammonia levels had risen beyond the permissible limit owing to the untreated industrial waste released into the river through the Panipat drain.
Due to curtailment of production at the Wazirabad and Chandrawal water treatment plants, water supply in several areas of Central, Old, North, parts of South Delhi and those falling under the New Delhi Municipal Council were badly effected. The Jal Board had then also spoken to the Principal Secretary (Irrigation), Haryana, to take necessary measures.
Even as the Capital’s perennially water starved areas celebrated the Delhi Government’s announcement of providing 20 kilolitre of free water to each household every month, the city’s law enforcing agency might also have a reason to breathe easy. Senior Delhi Police officers believe that the improved supply, if maintained during the summer months, could provide a solution to several law and order issues erupting due to water woes, at the core of which is a demand-supply mismatch.
Every year, during the summer months, the police receive a large number of calls from all parts of the city complaining about violence between individuals or groups over the quantity of water procured.
While the problem is quite widespread in the Capital, it is more acute in the unauthorised colonies and slum clusters which do not have a pipeline. The civic agencies resort to use of tankers to carry waters, and long queues people stretching across a few kilometres is a common sight. “Queue indiscipline is often a big reason why people argue during summer days when an already limited supply is squeezed further. The uncertainty of whether a tanker would arrive the next day, drives people to store as much as they can. But it is natural that one’s bid to procure more than the agreed-upon quota or jump the queue would irk another. This leads to arguments and in many cases violence,” said a police officer.
People living in these affected areas agree. They add that this causes traffic problems in the congested lanes, where their houses stand, and more often a petty argument is settled with “fists, sticks and even knives.”
“This inevitably leads to police intervention, and more disruption of supply,” said Bhim, a resident of Sangam Vihar, adding that there have been times when the tanker drivers are also at the receiving end of public anger. Pilferage and water theft to help the tanker mafia also invites the people’s wrath.
Apart from all this, the failure of the civic agencies in many areas to supply water means more phone calls to the police control room. On an average, every fortnight, the PCR receives over 3,500 calls from the public about problems with the civic agencies, including water supply. This burdens the phone lines and personnel who are deputed mainly to attend emergency calls.
A senior police officer said that the police do not have any control over civic agencies. So, while they can take questions from the distressed public on why a supply has been interrupted or when it will resume, they do not have an answer.
Dumping of non-biodegradable waste, burning of plastic and rampant fishing along the Garhi Mandu city forest, a natural biodiversity habitat on the left bank of the Yamuna, seem to have taken a toll on the population of water birds at the wetland in North-East Delhi.
Home to over 52 species of resident and migratory water birds last winter, the forest is now facing a steep decline in the number of birds. Eighteen species, including Greylag Goose, Northern Pintail, Red-crested Pochard, Grey Heron, Painted Stork, Red-wattled Lapwing and Black-headed Gull, which were seen last winter are no longer found in and around the forest.
The threat to the natural wetland has set alarm bells ringing for conservationists.
This year, he said, out of 31 species of winter migratory birds, only six have been spotted. Mr. Roy pointed out that the Forest and Wildlife Department had notified the Garhi Mandu forest under Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
He said, unfortunately, the boundary of the forest where the wetland exist has not been notified. “The government needs to recognise this, notify the wetland and take care of it. Extending its forest coverage for a sustainable, healthy environment for human beings is the need of the hour.”
He said the forest is surrounded by a huge natural wetland accidentally formed by the Yamuna floods of 2008. The flood was a blessing in disguise and it resulted in supporting the forest ecosystem, he said and added: “The natural wetland is the breeding ground for more than 52 species of water birds, both resident and migratory, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature red-list categories threatened species..”
Mr. Roy, who is the Delhi coordinator of Wetlands International South Asia’s Asian Waterbird Census, alleged dumping of a huge amount of polythene and plastic by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation as well as locals along the banks and in the wetland.
“Regular dumping of debris and filling the wetland by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation is just not right for our environment. As a result, the wetland are getting dried up and covered up for agricultural use.”
He said regular burning of dumped non-biodegradable garbage is causing air pollution and the left-over waste creates water pollution in the wetland. “Another cause of worry is regular fishing by the local fishermen and open thoroughfare and playground around the wetland.”