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World Water Day: Mission to revive Delhi’s dying water bodies trapped in files

Delhi Jal Board had announced the plan to reclaim drying water bodies but nothing substantial has been done on paper so far.

delhi Updated: Mar 25, 2017 18:00 IST
Ritam Halder
Ritam Halder
Hindustan Times
Children play at Shahdara Lake, near EMCD Office in New Delhi.
Children play at Shahdara Lake, near EMCD Office in New Delhi.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Data available with the Delhi government says there are over 1,000 water bodies in the capital but due to encroachment and urbanisation, nearly 80% just exist on paper, say activists.

Although some water bodies have dried up, in many places, parks have come up. Others have been converted into dumping sites. In rural areas, these work as sewage dumps. However, government efforts remain mere on-paper exercises.

In July, the Delhi Jal Board had announced reclamation of around 100 such water bodies. Nothing substantial, however, has happened ever since.

“The Delhi Jal Board is focusing on rejuvenation of 93 water bodies. Tenders have already been issued for reclamation and rejuvenation of four such water bodies, two in Mitraon, one at Dichaon Kalan and another in Ayanagar. For the rest, a proposal has been sent to the Cabinet. It is yet to be cleared,” DJB CEO Keshav Chandra said.

One of the biggest dangers to the city’s water bodies is the dumping of untreated sewage and the absence of sincere efforts at water restoration. According to the DJB official, the water utility has been focusing on water bodies which have sewage inflow from nearby villages.

In March 2003, concerned over the depleting groundwater level in the Capital, the high court had directed the Centre, the Delhi government, the MCD and the DDA to remove all encroachments in and around the lakes, ponds and reservoirs here and maintain them as water bodies. The agencies were also asked to maintain all water bodies as lakes and ponds.

With heavy pollution, construction in catchment areas and encroachment, most of the water bodies that were part of Delhiites’ lives till the 1990s are now history. In 2003, the court ordered all agencies to preserve the water bodies. Even after 14 years, nothing has happened,” Jain said.

In June 2016, the National Green Tribunal also directed the Delhi government to clean and restore all the natural water bodies.

These water bodies, if reclaimed, could have helped against declining groundwater reserves and recharge aquifer and sustain tube wells operation in nearby areas.

“If there is a will, most of these can be revived. Till 30-40 years back, when the de facto control of these water bodies was with the community, most of these were functioning. Now the control has shifted from the community to the state. Despite judicial orders, we see no progress,” activist Diwan Singh, who is part of the Dwarka Water Bodies Committee, said.