Ahead of the assembly elections in Delhi last year, the war cry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) revolved around ‘bijli and paani’ (electricity and water).
After a year in office, the government led by Arvind Kejriwal would have found that slashing power tariff was the easier job than delivering on the promise of providing piped water to lakhs of families across areas that have been living off private and government water tankers for decades.
But many believe that the government has at least made a start with the Delhi Jal Board starting the process of laying pipelines in over 20 colonies of the city-state.
“Not a single election has gone by when politicians have not offered us permanent water connections but this is the first time we are seeing some work done. But we will wait for the water to come to us before we judge the AAP,” said Ramhit Mondal, 76, who has been living in J block of Sangam Vihar for the past 20 years.
The next big challenge is to provide people with 20 kilolitres of water per household per month, one of AAP’s major pre-poll promises. The government is already providing free water to around 7 lakh households.
The government had faced severe criticism for the free water scheme when it was notified in March last year and naysayers had predicted a fall in the utility’s revenue because of the `23.3-crore subsidy.
The DJB, however, managed to declare an increase in revenue. “The DJB has earned Rs 178 crore more in 2015 as compared to the previous year,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said.
Among the happy people are residents in several parts of Dwarka which received water from the Munak canal in 2015.
“The situation on the ground has improved tremendously. 70%-80% of the problem has been resolved because of water from the canal. Water tankers have all but disappeared from Dwarka roads,” said Diwan Singh, a Dwarka resident who has been working on water issues in Delhi.
The challenge, however, expected to get tougher with more people being brought under the DJB umbrella.
The AAP’s election manifesto had promised water and sewage connection to lakhs of households in the next four years. Apart from the huge cost involved, the challenge of getting enough water for the entire city is also very big.
According to water utility officials, the increasing number of users and plugging water and revenue loss are integral to all the promises being fulfilled.
Still, DJB chairperson Kapil Mishra thinks the first year has been a success.
“Our biggest challenge and achievement was making those water treatment plants functional that had been lying closed for years. Secondly, our tackling of the water situation in summers,” Mishra said.
The government’s focus in the coming two years will be to get water to every household, he said adding that cleaning up the Yamuna is also high on the agenda.