Water was one of the major poll promises made by the Aam Aadmi Party during the last assembly elections. After coming to power it promised 700 litres of free water to households which receive piped water supply and have a functional meter. However, over the last month, several south Delhi households have received scant or no water supply. Their troubles increased manifold as the mercury breached the 46 degree mark.
Localities reeling under acute water scarcity include unauthorised colonies as well as posh neighbourhoods of the southern part of the national Capital. Vasant Kunj, Lado Sarai, Govindpuri, Masjid Moth, parts of Greater Kailash, Chittaranjan Park, Malviya Nagar, Neb Sarai, Hargovind Enclave, Tughlakabad, Freedom Fighter Enclave, Okhla and Govindpuri have been facing water shortage. Residents said though they have complained several times to the authorities, no concrete solution had been provided.
Fed up with sporadic water supply for days, residents of Sangam Vihar took to the streets last week. They blocked a colony road by placing water containers causing chaos in the locality. Residents said each household barely received 250 litres of water in a week, that too, through tankers.
Jagjivan Kumar, 35, a resident of Sangam Vihar, said, “Before each election, political parties promise to provide proper water connections but nothing concrete happens. In Sangam Vihar, people fight, steal and agitate for water. On Thursday, residents ‘captured’ Delhi Jal Board tankers and raised slogans against irregular and inadequate water supply. The plan to lay a permanent pipeline in the colony is stuck in red-tape.”
Sadia Banu, another resident, said, “Temporary pipelines have been laid in some areas but the supply is erratic. DJB supplies only 250 litres of water to a family, that too once in a week. During peak summer, the frequency of tankers also reduces. It takes several calls to get a Delhi Jal Board tanker.”
An official of the water utility said that temporary pipelines have been laid in 70% of the locality. “We are planning to lay permanent pipelines in all households of Sangam Vihar. The target is to finish by next summer,” he said.
Similar crisis is unfolding in other parts of south Delhi. Several pockets of Vasant Kunj, Lado Sarai, Govindpuri, Masjid Moth and Greater Kailash are dependent on water tankers to meet their daily needs. The rising temperature in Delhi has aggravated the situation in Neb Sarai, Hargovind Enclave, Tughlakabad, Freedom Fighter Enclave, Okhla and Govindpuri.
AAP water minister Kapil Mishra said the government is working on a plan to connect each locality with Delhi Jal Board water pipeline network. “Piped water supply has been given to 238 colonies, there and 300 colonies where it is yet to be done,” he said. However, sources in DJB said that there are 407 colonies which are yet to get the connection.
Dinesh Mohaniya, Sangam Vihar MLA who is also the vice-chairman of DJB, blamed leaders of other parties for politicising the issue and provoking people to protest.
The depleting groundwater in south Delhi is also a matter of concern. At some places the water level has gone down to 37 metre below ground level. AAP, in its manifesto, had said that tough steps will be taken to eliminate water mafia and regulate private tankers effectively to ensure reasonable cost to the consumer. Residents, however, allege that tanker mafia works in nexus with low-rank DJB officials.
In many parts of South Delhi, like Tughlakabad, Lado Sarai and Katwaria Sarai, people still have to rely on private tankers. Mahinder S Sejwal, 64, a Lado Sarai resident, said, “The tanker mafia has only got bolder and charge exorbitant amounts. Earlier, they charged Rs1,500 per tanker but this year they demanded Rs 3,000. Residents have no other choice but to shell out the extra bucks.”
Mishra claimed that his government has tightened the noose around tanker mafia. “The tanker mafia is on the way out in areas like Dwarka and Sangam Vihar and the availability of tankers has improved.” He said that AAP will soon launch a water harvesting plan which would be another big step in providing clean water to Delhi.
Delhi Jal Board CEO Keshav Chandra said, “Most of the areas faced problems due to technical glitches in the last week. There will be no such issues in coming days.”
Saket, Masjid Moth feel the pinch
These two colonies have been facing acute water shortage for two weeks. Aggrieved residents claimed to have lodged complaints many times, but their problem has not been addressed yet. Areas suffering the most include Saket’s block D and Masjid Moth Village which have more than 12,000 inhabitants.
“Although there is a water shortage here, the problem aggravated 15 days ago. There is no supply of drinking water; we have to depend on tube wells. The rise in consumption due to scorching heat has affected the tube well supply as well,” said Rajesh Bharal, a Saket resident.
A DJB official said the supply will be restored immediately. He explained that due to a pipeline burst and related repair work at Sarai Kale Khan, the water supply was affected.
Residents said Masjid Moth village is supposed to get water supply from an underground reservoir in Deer Park, but the water fails to reach the village. Hauz Khas, Green Park and Gautam Nagar also receive water from the reservoir.
Chandra said, “At present, we can supply water through tankers only. We have to engage a hydraulics expert for a permanent solution. Officials have been asked to provide water through a common point.”