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Arvind Kejriwal's promise to provide free water a daunting task: experts

Neelam Pandey, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 25, 2013
First Published: 22:28 IST(25/12/2013) | Last Updated: 12:50 IST(26/12/2013)

Though chief minister-designate Arvind Kejriwal promised free supply of water as soon as he takes charge of the Delhi government, this task seems to be a daunting one, claim experts.

According to Delhi government's economic survey 2012-13, a domestic consumer requires 172 litres per capita per day (lpcd) and hence an average family would require 688 litres of water every day, less than what the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has promised to provide. The party in its manifesto had promised 700 litres of free water to each household.

Delhi has 19.34 lakh water connections of which approximately 17 lakh are domestic ones. Experts say scarcity of water is not a cause for concern but the equitable distribution of water is. According to census 2011, 20% of households are not connected to a water pipeline network and providing free water to these colonies would be a Herculean task.

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) supplies 835 MGD (million gallons per day) of water to 19.34 lakh connections, which means on an average each household has 2,000 litres available for themselves. "Most water is lost in transmission and leakages and this is where AAP will have to work the most. However, it is a difficult task as many colonies don't even have pipelines. At the same time, while the VIP areas get more water, in some parts of the city unauthorised colonies and slums don't even get 50 litres of water," said an expert.

Experts even question the financial viability of this scheme. "There are no legal problems in giving free water, but a financial problem exists. How will the Jal Board run?" said Omesh Saigal, former chief secretary of Delhi.

Kiran Bedi called it a difficult task. "AAP can't do what it promises so easily. For any water issue, the party needs to coordinate with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana," she said. During summers, Haryana does not send even the requisite amount of water to the city keeping its own need in mind.

Prem Singh, former MLA from Ambedkar Nagar constituency, said it would not be an easy battle for AAP. He said he has been fighting the water mafia, which diverts drinking tanker water to construction projects, despite being in government for years.

Ambedkar Nagar is one of those constituencies where water scarcity has been a major issue.

Kejriwal maintained that the party had already started working on the promises made in the manifesto.

"We are working on the water issue first. We conducted a thorough study and found that different colonies have different issues. While water will be made free within 24 hours of the government coming to power, making sure that the water reaches all over Delhi will take some time," he said.

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