Whenever there are complaints of water contamination from south Delhi, the employees of Delhi Jal Board's (DJB) laboratory at Greater Kailash-I have to rush to the spot, even if it means going to a location which is more than 15km away like Vasant Kunj.
To keep regular tabs on the quality of water in all south Delhi areas, the staff from the GK-I lab goes to far-off areas within southwest Delhi for it is the only lab that caters to the entire zone.
After deaths and illnesses due to water contamination were reported from south Delhi's NCERT Colony, it became pertinent to ascertain whether the DJB had adequate infrastructure for water quality surveillance.
The DJB has six zonal laboratories for 11 districts of Delhi to process water samples collected from its distribution network across the city, except in NDMC and Delhi Cantonment areas. Apart from one central laboratory at Wazirabad, the others are at Okhla, Geeta Colony, Haiderpur, Nangloi and RWS (rural water supply) at Greater Kailash I.
The Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation had advised all states to set up at least one district-level laboratory as well as a sub-divisional drinking water quality testing laboratories for testing quality of drinking water sources periodically.
"The ministry has sent a dozen-odd letters, including follow-up reminders, to the DJB CEO on the issue. But it has been hanging fire for several years now," sources said.
DJB CEO and other officials had discussed the recommendation but no decision has been reached. But Bipin Behari, DJB secretary, had an explanation about the 'delay'.
"The ministry's recommendations were examined. (But) it was decided that we will set up additional laboratories as and when more water is available at the yet-to-be functional water treatment plants," Behari said.
He, however, he did not explain why the population in those areas needed to suffer even when they source water from the ground, either through bore wells, handpumps or even open wells, especially when the Centre advisory talks about quality of all drinking water sources.
The Wazirabad lab caters to central, north and New Delhi areas, Okhla lab to south Delhi, Geeta Colony lab to east and northeast Delhi, Haiderpur to northwest Delhi, and GK I lab to southwest Delhi and all the rural fringe areas while the Nangloi lab caters to entire west Delhi.