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Delhi: Taps run dry, tempers fray as AAP govt cracks down on tankers

The worsening water situation is making the citizens’ anger spill on to the streets in Delhi, even as the peak demand of the upcoming summer months looms large.

delhi Updated: Feb 07, 2014 10:05 IST
Ritam Halder and Nivedita Khandekar
Ritam Halder and Nivedita Khandekar
Hindustan Times

More than a dozen storage tanks of different sizes welcome one at Daisy Devi’s home in Sangam Vihar in southeast Delhi. The tanks store a commodity growing increasingly precious in these parts of the Capital –water. The worsening water situation is making the citizens’ anger spill on to the streets, even as the peak demand of the upcoming summer months looms large.

“If the situation is this bad now, I wonder what will happen in the summer. We don’t even get 50 litres of water though 700 litres was promised,” said Daisy, a homemaker.

Daisy’s isn’t the only voice of parched dissent. Residents from various corners of the Capital are facing a severe water shortage, ironically, due to the crackdown by the Delhi government on the tanker mafia and illegal borewells. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government may have put the proverbial cart before the horse by doing away with the existing system before setting up an alternative.

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) can supply a maximum of 850 million gallons daily, while the Capital’s demand is at a minimum of 1,050 million gallons, which is expected to soar during the summer months. With a minimum shortage of 200 million gallons, residents are facing increasing water scarcity and tempers are flying.

An MLA was slapped in Sangam Vihar by an agitated resident over the issue, with a protest took place on the same issue at southwest Delhi’s Bijwasan.

“Illegal bore wells were the water supply sources earlier along with DJB tankers that came twice a week. Now the government has taken control of these borewells and a lone tanker arrives at odd hours once every week,” said Shailendra Jha, a Sangam Vihar resident. “We are forced to buy more water from private tankers now,” he added.

HT spotted numerous private tankers in the area supplying water to households on demand. Most residents have the numbers of these operators on speed dial.

“A 6,000-litre tanker here can be got for Rs 1,200, while 3,000 litre one comes for Rs 1,000. Two or three families share the water from one private tanker. The erratic DJB tanker comes sometimes even late at night,” said Sunil Pathak, a Sangam Vihar resident.

A DJB spokesperson said the DJB has improved its water tanker service greatly, apart from taking control of unauthorized borewells.

“The schedule of the trips undertaken by tankers to Sangam Vihar is now available on the DJB website. The number of trips has also been increased to cover more households,” she said.

Residents of Rangpuri near Mahipalpur, however, complain of DJB apathy,unfinished piping work which on paper is done, the borewell mafia and dependence on private tankers.

“We have no choice other than buying water from private tankers. The DJB trucks don’t go everywhere and only a choicest few get it,” said Deep Chandra Numberdaar, a resident.

Activists point out that a workable system needs to fill the void of a discarded, faulty system.

“The government needs to get a clear idea and estimate of each cluster’s water requirement. It should issue a set of guidelines: Rate per tanker, for instance. It should institutionalize the tanker system,” said Jyoti Sharma of NGO Force.