“Scrap the project if you cannot resolve your issues”, bemoaned the Supreme Court adding that “the whole world knows that Delhi is not getting water”. Conversely the Delhi water minister has the other day held that Delhi does not require more water from any external source, like the proposed Renuka Dam.
The project in question is a 148 metre high and 430 metre wide dam planned over River Giri, a tributary of the Yamuna in Himachal Pradesh. The apex court’s outburst was in response to a plea for central funds by Himachal Pradesh so that it could compensate the people who would be displaced by the dam.
Reports suggest that water supply to Delhi was made the dam’s key objective more as an afterthought since the dam was technically non-viable as it could produce no more than 40 MW of power and its flood mitigation role was marginal.
That there is a water crisis in Delhi is well known. But what is not widely known and to which the water minister was alluding is the fact that the water crisis in Delhi is not related to water supply but to its gross waste and an inequitable distribution within the city, where it reportedly ranges from 500 LPCD (litres per person per day) to 50 LPCD depending on the locality.
At a current assured supply of 850 MGD, which according to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) translates to some 50 gallons per person per day (185 LPCD), Delhi is among the better water supplied cities in the world. In comparison, Paris and London make do with 150 LPCD.
It is illustrative in this context to peruse the draft water policy for Delhi, which reassures the city that it does not need more water from external sources even till 2050 when it reaches its stabilisation population of around 27 million — provided it can diligently and equitably manage its available water on the principles of recharge, recycle and reuse.
As per the Census, the population trend of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) by 2051 is expected to rise to 25.33 million. For this population at the standard norm of 172 LPCD the total water need translates to about 1,018 MGD.
At the current availability of 850 MGD of fresh water, 30 MGD of runoff recharge potential and 400 MGD of recycled water potential, the total water available to the city comes to 1,280 MGD. Clearly a water smart and climate resilient Delhi would need no additional water from any external source to meet the needs of not just its own but also that of its floating population.
(Manoj Misra is convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan. The views expressed are personal)