The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi has hit the ground running. On Monday, two days after it took over the reins of the city, it announced that 20 kilo-litre of free water will be supplied per month to all the domestic consumers with functional meters from January 1.
Consumers who cross the above limit will be charged for the entire usage.
While the decision will be cheered by many, let’s not forget that when it comes to water, Delhi has always been more than fortunate. According to the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, the Capital gets more per capita water than Amsterdam, Paris, Bonn or most other European cities.
It added that the amount of water that Delhi gets is sufficient to provide for necessary needs of today and even in future. The crisis lies elsewhere: there is no equitable distribution of water in the city. And so the real challenge of the AAP government in the coming months would be to ensure that.
Along with this, it must also ensure that the city is self-sufficient in water in future and not depend on upstream dams in other states to feed the water requirement of its population.
To do this, the government will need to implement certain plans, many of which are already there on paper but have not been implemented strictly: mandatory rainwater harvesting, plugging leaks, instituting water audits, putting in place functioning water meters, adequate treatment of wastewater and protecting local water bodies.
Along with ensuring adequate availability of water, tackling future risks should be the focus.
Next on the agenda of the AAP will certainly be the power promise: the party had promised halving electricity rates in the city and conducting an audit of power distribution companies.
A presentation made by the power department to the chief minister recently showed that the government will have to provide Rs2,500 crore additional subsidy to the people in the next fiscal if it has to keep its promise. The present subsidy is Rs450 crore to frugal consumers who consume less that 400 units.
It is true that Delhi is a revenue cash-rich state and there will be the lure of spending, especially on popular schemes. There is also the burden of expectations on Arvind Kejriwal and many probably think that he has an answer to all problems.
Yet, as Mr Kejriwal himself said, he has no magic wand and so to push him to take financially imprudent decisions would not serve anyone’s case. On his part, Mr Kejriwal’s must reflect on how responsible it will be to expand the bouquet of freebies.