Rajeev Singh, 45, is an angry man. A resident of south Delhi’s Sangam Vihar – one of Delhi’s biggest unauthorised colonies -- water continues to be his biggest headache.
Buying water from illegal tankers every week has become a way of life. And nothing has changed for him in the past two years
“For a small tanker with a capacity of 2,500 litres, which lasts for five days, we pay Rs 550. For a bigger one, with a capacity of 5,000 litres which is sufficient for 10 days, I shell out Rs 1,100. In summers, rates increase go to up to Rs 1,500. The Jal board tankers deliver water to only those with ‘setting’. We don’t get that benefit,” Singh says.
Not just Sangam Vihar, where only some parts have piped water, Hindustan Times spotted private tankers operating in many colonies across South and West Delhi. So has the government, even after two years, no answer to the tanker mafia?
“The Delhi Jal Board has already deployed 407 GPS driven stainless water tankers, 300 MS Tankers and 250 new departmental stainless steel water tankers to curb the water mafia. The water supply network has been extended in 1,200 colonies, reducing the demand on water tankers. As soon as network goes to all colonies, the number of tankers will be automatically reduced,” DJB chairman Keshav Chandra said.
At present, about 83% households of Delhi have access to piped water supply. In the past two years, over 1,200 unauthorised colonies have got access to the water supply network. In the 2016-17 budget, Rs 676 crore was earmarked for this. Work in 300 colonies is targeted to be completed by the end of this year. No-objection certificates for 114 colonies are yet to be issued and technical feasibility in 43 colonies does not exist, a government official said.
In the budget, the government waived off 100% arrears for consumers belonging to the “E”, “F”, “G” & “H” category colonies, 75% in “D” category, 50% in “C” and 25% in “A” & “B” categories with complete remission of late payment surcharge. It reduced the development charge from Rs 440 per sq m to Rs 100 per sq m in unauthorised colonies, which officials claim enrolled and benefitted almost 130,000 consumers.
The AAP government says it is providing 20,000 litres of water free of cost to domestic consumers. For users who consume between 20,000 litres and 30,000 litres of water per month, the service charge is Rs 219.62 and the volumetric charge is Rs 21.97 per 1,000 litres. Customers who use over 30,000 litres a month have to pay Rs 292.82 in service charge and Rs 36.61 per 1,000 litres in volumetric charge.
But experts question the feasibility of this model.
Jyoti Sharma, president of FORCE India, an NGO dedicated to water conservation, says the intention was right behind this free water scheme but it is sending out a wrong message.
“The intention was dual: To make life easier for people in the lower income brackets and to encourage people to use less. But a majority of the target populace doesn’t have metered connection and so they are not benefitting from the scheme. Making water free is sending a wrong message. It is a signal that is making people less aware of the need to conserve,” Sharma said.
It can achieve the desired objective only if it there are working meters for all residents. Sharma said.
Other experts, too, agree that the vision is there but execution is a problem.
Environmentalist Vikram Soni, a professor at Centre for Theoretical Physics, Jamia Millia Islamia, says the AAP government is on the right track but needs to do more and persist with its initiatives.
“Take the Yamuna Palla floodwater harvesting project for example. This can act as a contingency reserve for Delhi if done. It can also bring the Delhi Jal Board R700 crore as revenue. It is running but needs to be completed. Field trial needs to be done, pipelines need to be installed and wells and water need to be monitored. The water minister has been very proactive but the Jal Board is still dragging its feet. It should move fast,” Soni said.