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Canal water supply to end mafia hold

By year-end, supply of canal water to all sectors will end mafia’s monopoly in newer sectors, check groundwater depletion

gurgaon Updated: Jun 14, 2019 04:02 IST
Prayag Arora-Desai
Prayag Arora-Desai
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
gurugram,gurugram water mafia,water mafia
Prior to 1990, Gurugram was entirely dependent on groundwater as there was no major surface water source.(HT archives)

By the end of this year, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) plans to start supplying piped drinking water to all sectors of the city. Officials have said this will be a major milestone in the urban expansion of Gurugram, as piped water is a sign of good governance, improved water security and community health. It will also be a major feather in the cap of the GMDA, which took over water supply in 2018 from the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran, which, due to lack of funds and land acquisition issues, was unable to ensure such widespread supply despite the city growing in its expanse.

The establishment of piped water network will be a boon for both, authorities and citizens. However, experts say that to ensure a sustainable supply in future, the city will also have to end the water mafia operations, which currently has a monopoly over water supply in the still developing areas of the city (Sectors 58 to 115), where canal water has not reached as yet or has reached only recently.

After the recent incidents of pipelines being repeatedly sabotaged in some of these areas, officials in the GMDA and the police, both, had said these cases were proof that piped water supply threatened the mafia’s lucrative business, and added that piped supply could curb the rate of illegal groundwater extraction.

Officials also said that citywide water supply could correct what has so far been a lopsided model of urban development. “Ideally, the delivery of civic amenities should reach an area before it starts getting populated. The opposite has happened in Gurugram’s newer sectors. Piped water will be a course correction in the city’s haphazard growth,” said Sandeep Dahiya, an engineer in the GMDA’s infrastructure division, which oversees water supply.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The distribution of piped water to Gurugram began in the year 1990, when the city began drawing water from the Yamuna canal in Sonepat. Prior to this, the area was entirely dependent on groundwater as there was no other major source of surface water, such as a river, to draw from. The launch of city’s first water treatment plant in Basai, in 1995, helped augment this supply for the then developing sectors, between 1 and 57, which have since come to rely almost entirely on canal water. “Illegal groundwater extraction does continue in these areas, though to a lesser degree,” Dahiya clarified.

With the city’s continued urban boom, the demand for piped water comes mainly from sectors 58 to 115, where condominiums have come up without any water supply infrastructure, forcing residents to depend on illegally procured water.

To supply piped water to these areas, a second water treatment plant at Chandu Budhera village was commissioned in 2011, but it only started supplying water in 2018. With this major hurdle having been overcome, GMDA chief executive officer (CEO) V Umashankar confirmed that work was underway to bring piped water to all areas of Gurugram city by December this year.

In sectors 58 to 67, canal water supply began in May this year, while sectors 99 to 115 began receiving the same in November last year. Sectors 68 to 80 are set to be connected to the water supply network by July end, while Sectors 81 to 98, which include fringe areas such as Ghata and Gwal Pahari, will receive piped water in the last leg, by the end of the year.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS

As Gurugram grows and newer sectors get populated, the GMDA is technologically upgrading its distribution system to ensure equal supply to all households. Starting last year, the authority began revamping the fundamental manner in which water is distributed to new areas of the city. Instead of the originally proposed branched distribution system, the GMDA has opted for a closed-loop system of water delivery.

A branched system is made up of one main pipeline from where multiple distribution channels branch out to various destinations. This system was proposed by a private company in 2012 as part of the Gurugram-Manesar Urban Complex Master Plan, 2031. However, it could not be executed due to unforeseen land acquisition problems.

“To circumvent these hurdles, the GMDA, in consultation with another private company, proposed a closed-loop system in July 2017; it was vetted by the chief minister in August 2018,” Dahiya said, adding that the closed-loop system was a better option, for multiple reasons.

“The closed-loop system will be more advantageous because all the pipes are interconnected, allowing water to flow freely and this causes less stagnation and head loss of water within the system,” Dahiya said. In a branched system, on the other hand, there are many dead ends where water remains static, leading to accumulation of sediments and bacterial growth which degrades the quality of water.

“Closed-loop system also maintains uniform water pressure in every pipeline, so people living in areas at the end of the network will also receive the same amount of water as all other places along the line,” GMDA chief engineer Lalit Arora said.

To develop this infrastructure for the new sectors, the GMDA will spend an estimated Rs 226 crore in the current financial year, 2019-20. At present, sectors 68 to 80 have started receiving water through this new system.

IMPROVING TRADITIONAL CONSERVATION METHODS

Experts believe that while augmenting current supply capacity is a must, it is doubly important for the city to look at its future need and prepare for them.

“Improving canal water supply and upgrading technology will solve the city’s short-term problems, but the city also needs to do other things to improve its water security, such as ensuring better harvesting of rainwater through sustainable land use,” activist Vivek Kamboj said.

From housing 4 lakh people in 2001, Gurugram’s population exploded to about 18 lakh in 2017, and is expected to touch about 40 lakh by 2030, according to estimates provided by the GMDA.

“This means that the daily demand for water will rise from about 410MLD at present to over 1,600MLD in the next 11 years,” Kamboj pointed out. To meet this demand, the GMDA will have to diversify its sources of water.

To tackle this issue, the GMDA’s urban environment division is looking at a complete revival of city’s catchment areas and traditional rainwater harvesting infrastructure. “It will be a move back to Gurugram’s original source of groundwater, which has been overexploited due to urbanisation,” said Rajbir Singh of the GMDA’s urban environment section.

A recent report by the GMDA found that almost 80% of all storm water which falls in the 50,000 acres of catchment in Gurugram is lost as runoff.

Chief engineer Arora explained that this was a result of increasing concretisation. “On the one hand, we are overdrawing from the ground and, on the other, recharge has been limited as water cannot percolate through concrete,” he said.

But efforts are being made to rectify things. Last month, the Haryana government approved Rs 289 crore ‘comprehensive drainage plan’, which would be executed over the next year. “It will try to ensure that majority of the runoff goes back into the ground,” Arora explained, adding that it will include construction of new rainwater harvesting pits, depression of green belts to capture more water, and building recharge wells along the Southern Peripheral Road. “The idea is to have a zero-discharge system, where 100% rainwater is retained for our own utilisation,” Arora added.

Moreover, the GMDA recently finished putting together a comprehensive map of all water bodies in the district, identifying 124 of them as core water bodies, which will be revived over the course of the next year.

First Published: Jun 14, 2019 04:02 IST

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