Delhi’s water crisis has prompted the judiciary to offer the government lessons in history, instead of law.
On Wednesday, a top Delhi Jal Board (DJB) official was quizzed by the chief justice of the Delhi High Court (HC) Dipak Misra thus: “What were your subjects in school? Did you study History?”
Man Singh, chief engineer (East) of the DJB was in court in connection with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on severe water shortage in some areas of East Delhi.
“History says all civilisations came up on river banks; first, provision of water is ensured. But in Delhi, you construct a concrete jungle first and then ponder over where the water will come from. This way, the water problem is inevitable,” Justice Misra told Singh.
“We find civic wings apathetic to civic problems. Instead of jointly solving it, they merely pass the buck,” said the court.
The other judge — Justice Manmohan — slammed the civic agencies for unplanned concretisation of Delhi without caring about arrangements for water supply.
“The government goes on regularising all kinds of colonies without thinking whether there is a provision for water for the inhabitants,” said Justice Manmohan.
“Forget villages or semi-urban colonies. Even posh colonies in South Delhi are facing water shortage,” Justice Manmohan added.
The court remained unimpressed by DJB counsel Sumeet Pushkarna’s statement that a special Master Plan (including water management, distribution and increased use of treated sewage water) for Delhi is being prepared with Japanese assistance.
“It should have been in place long ago. The main problem is that sources are not being tapped. The number of water bodies is vanishing and in neglect. We got a good monsoon this year. But water is allowed to disappear. Why isn’t there proper (water) harvesting?” asked the court.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) chief KS Mehra has been summoned by the HC on November 7 as no MCD representative had participated in the meeting called between DJB and MCD to discuss the water problem in the Shahdara area.
Pushkarna said there was a possibility of constructing an underground reservoir but land was yet to be given by the MCD.
On Dwarka crisis
Pushkarna said Dwarka’s water problem would ease if the promised amount of water is received from Haryana. The DJB, on the other hand, said the work on the Munak canal, being executed by the Haryana irrigation department, is expected to be complete soon. The court asked the Government to begin a dialogue with Haryana for speedy supply of water.