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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 24, June 15, 2024

Huge Water Shortage in india’s National capital | Gyan Pathak

Friday 14 June 2024

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[IPA News Feature - June 14, 2024] India’s National Capital Territory Delhi is running a shortage of water to the tune of 50 MGD (million gallon) per day. The Water and Tanker Mafia are minting money. People are undergoing unprecedented suffering. Political parties are trying to derive political mileage by indulging in blame-game. The Supreme Court of India has intervened but the water crisis isn’t going away. With no end in sight before the monsoon arrives.

Water crisis in Delhi is not a new phenomenon. People suffer every summer. With the BJP ruling at the Centre and AAP ruling at the state level, both are trading charges and championing Delhi’s cause. The Delhi electorate has been giving Delhi’s 7 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP and the majority to AAP in the Vidhan Sabha. Both voice their concern over shortage of water, and pledge to resolve the problem but the water crisis continues year after year.

With soaring temperatures, exceeding 48 degree Celsius, electricity supply disruption due to system overload, and huge shortage of water and disruption in its supply, has brought the Delhi water crisis to a critical level. The central government has urged Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to augment water supplies until the monsoon arrives. The AAP government has not only requested the Haryana and Himachal Pradesh governments for additional water from the Yamuna but has also approached the Supreme Court for an appropriate order. Nothing seems to be working and the water shortage will only increase.

The Delhi government has said in the Supreme Court that the water tanker mafia has been entering the city limits from Haryana and that it was unable to take action against the water mafia due to jurisdiction issues. The Delhi government also said that it is for Haryana to explain what steps it has taken to preserve full supply of water to Delhi between the point of release and the point of receipt.

Delhi government has also informed the Supreme Court in an affidavit.“The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has prepared a comprehensive blueprint for augmenting water supplies in the NCT of Delhi. This plan has been prepared keeping in mind the water scarcity faced by Delhi every year and the sharp rise in population in the city.”

Such a claim was made by the Delhi government only after the Supreme court had told the government that if they were unable to deal with the menace of water tanker mafia, then the Delhi Police would be roped in. “People are suffering, we are seeing visuals on every news channel…What measures have you taken to control water wastage if water scarcity is a recurring problem in the summers,” a vacation bench of Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and Prasanna B Varale asked the Delhi government on Wednesday. The bench underscored that the matter had come up in 2018, 2019 and 2020 too.

The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, after the Supreme Court’s observation, has written to the Delhi Police Commissioner to take action against the tanker mafia indulging in the theft of water from the Munak canal. On June 13, the Supreme Court directed the Delhi government to approach the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) to secure an additional 150 Cusec of water from Haryana. The order came after the Delhi government pleaded for water from Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

The vacation Supreme Court bench said, “The issue concerning sharing of Yamuna water between states is complex. This court doesn’t have technical expertise.” The bench also directed the Delhi government on June 13 to make an application to the UYRB by 5 PM seeking supply of water to the national capital on humanitarian grounds.

It should be noted that the Himachal Pradesh government had earlier informed the court that Himachal Pradesh had 136 cusecs of excess water which can be released. However, on June 13, the Himachal Pradesh government said that they did not have excess water. The Supreme Court criticised the Himachal Pradesh government and would be hearing the Delhi government’s plea seeking a direction to Haryana to release the surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh to NCT Delhi to mitigate its water crisis.

In the meantime, the Minister of Water Resources of Haryana has said that the AAP government in Delhi is playing politics. Delhi is getting more than its due share of water. He has also alleged that the AAP government in Punjab is obstructing Haryana from drawing water from the Sutlej Yamuna Link and Hansi-Butana canals despite Supreme Court orders.

After the Supreme Court order to deal with theft of water by ‘water and tanker mafia’ and selling it to the people in Delhi, police have been deployed along the Munak canal near Delhi-Haryana border, to protect Delhi’s share of water supplied through this canal. There is a dispute between Haryana and Delhi on the quantity of water released and actually received. The Delhi government has blamed Haryana for the water crisis claiming that Haryana was not releasing adequate amounts of water for Delhi.

BJP on the other hand has alleged that the AAP government in Delhi has failed to prevent wastage of water. New Delhi MP and Delhi BJP secretary BansuriSwaraj has alleged that due to the shortage of water, people are being fleeced by the tanker mafia, and the AAP government has been extending protection to them. She said, “The DJB was in Rs 600 crore profit and in just a decade under the Kejriwal government, it is now in loss of Rs 73,000 crore. The entire infrastructure, pipelines, water storage system of the DJB are in shambles.”

Delhi Water Minister Atishi said that they are ensuring that not a single drop of water is wasted due to leakage from the main pipelines. She said the water crisis in Delhi is due to lack of adequate supply of raw water through the Yamuna and other sources. People are being fined for wastage of water and unauthorised water connections for construction and other commercial activities.

Amidst this slugfest, the chaos and fights for water can be seen everyday in several parts of Delhi. The Delhi government has appealed to the people not to use water for washing cars, roofs, and balconies and for watering plants. People living in unauthorised colonies and slums have no access to piped water which makes their lives hell. A 1000 tankers of the DJP are supplying water to these people. Even in authorised colonies where there are supply lines, water supply is invariably disrupted, making the lives of residents miserable. (IPA Service)

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