The sprawling garden of social activist Vinod Kumar Jain, 60, is watered by a deep borewell but the future, he says, is dicey. Actually, dry.
A resident of Mehrauli, “where no pipelines have ever been laid in the farmhouses,” he turned his personal crisis since the last 13 years into a fight for water for all of Delhi with facts, figures and by moving court.
The ‘crisis’, he realised, was based on an arbitrary and unequal water distribution process and a crass neglect of the city’s natural water sources — either buried under concrete by the land mafia, choked by garbage or turned into sewage dumps — that could have eased the pressure on rapidly sinking groundwater.
“Residents in the New Delhi Municipal Corporation area daily get 489 litres/person, Cantonment area gets 515 litres, why should Mehrauli get just 129 litres?” wondered Jain, turning his attention to what could be done.
He filed a PIL in 2000 — still being monitored by a court-appointed committee — on ‘Saving 629 water bodies of Delhi,’ and ‘Augmentation of Water Resources of Delhi.’
It forced the authorities to identify and accept the existence of Delhi’s waterbodies with historical importance such as Neela Hauz in Vasant Kunj, Gandhak Ki Baoli and Raja ki Baoli in Mehrauli.
Jain, on whose 2003 PIL rainwater harvesting became law in Delhi, considers this his biggest achievement.
“When I feel frustrated about things not moving fast enough, about these six-month reviews, one committee leading to another, I feel that with this law I did something good for the city” he said. “All buildings discharging waste water of more than 10,000 litres since then had to treat and re-use that water for horticulture purposes.”
Delhi needs to get serious about water, said Jain. “In some areas, the water level has gone down more than 20m below ground water level; in some areas it has dried up,” he said. “Unless it is recharged by reviving existing waterbodies, Delhi will be full of buildings but will have no water.”