Residents of east Delhi’s Swasthya Vihar claim that their ‘yellow, murky, and smelly’ drinking water, supplied by Delhi Jal Board (DJB), is allegedly sewage mixed water. They took to streets on Wednesday to protest the lack of sufficient potable, clean water supply by the DJB.
They marched to the office of the DJB’s executive engineer (East-II) with a bottle of the dirty water. “Would you drink this? Then why should we!” was the question the residents asked.
Many pipelines in the area are almost 40 years old, according to the residents, and have given way to wear and tear and have not been fixed.“The water lines and sewage lines are right next to each other. So when the pipes start leaking, drinking water mixes with the sewage from the sewage lines which are also leaking,” said Dr Pawanindra Lal, the secretary of the Swasthya Vihar Residents Welfare Association (RWA).
Residents also confessed that many had started using water pumps to suck more water into their tanks; which is not permitted under the law.
“We have to resort to these pumps, as the DJB has reduced our water supply even though the number of residents in the area has almost doubled. These pumps pull in contaminants through the gaps of the old pipes along with the water,” explained Dr Lal.
Residents alleged that many had fallen prey to waterborne diseases like typhoid, Hepatitis A, diarrhoea, skin diseases and rashes, and gastroenteritis owing to the bad water that has faecal matter and other contaminants mixed in it.
“My husband, daughter and mother-in-law were hospitalised. I too had a brief stint in the hospital. Should we die, before we get your attention and help?” Sangeeta Bhushan asked IC Mogha, the executive engineer.
Shiv Kumar Gupta, the president of the RWA, said that they had been battling deteriorating water quality for years in the area. “A survey was done five years ago, when the then DJB engineer had told us that some of these pipes were damaged beyond repair, and would need to be replaced. This still hasn’t been done,” he said.
The DJB officials at the Preet Vihar offices reassured residents, that they had floated a tender for the rectification of some of the damaged pipes. “The estimate was sanctioned a little late. But the tender has now been released, and the file is awaiting justification,” explained Hargyan Singh, the Zonal Engineer.
Mogha claimed that he was unaware of previous complaints and surveys done in the area, as he “was not formally handed over any documents,” but assured that work on four pipelines, as per tender guidelines, would start in two or three days and would be completed in three months.
As to why the DJB would approve more water connections if they could not sustain it, and if they had any plans to make up the deficit; “We are not ‘creating’ water here. Whatever water we have, we have to give it to everyone. We cannot deny people water, can we?” was Mogha’s response.
The AAP government had announced a ‘Walk The Line’ survey in December last year, where Kapil Mishra, the water minister in Delhi, had reassured that around 4,300 staff members, including junior engineers, would check the water network in the city for broken pipes and contamination among other things.