Delhi's summer of discontent
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Delhi's summer of discontent

With an exploding population (4.68 lakh people get added annually), indiscriminate mining of underground water resources, ageing infrastructure and no water conservation consciousness, Delhi is headed for a disaster of gigantic proportions.

india Updated: May 13, 2003 19:16 IST

Delhi has many faces - capital of independent India, a city in continuum, a city with no seasons of its own, biggest metropolis of India, a politically charged city, etc.

You could call her by any name. To all these acronyms another name is soon to be added - a parched city.

Unfortunately, as most of India would want to believe, this is not a natural phenomenon. It isn't the encroaching Thar desert that threatens Delhi. Most of her woes are man-made.

Sample these.

An exploding population - an estimated 4.68 lakh people (annual population growth of the National Capital Region of Delhi; Source: The Economic Survey of Delhi, 2001-2002 conducted by Planning Department, Government of Delhi)) get added to its existing population every year.

Over the last two decades the unchecked and indiscriminate mining of underground water has seen water table dip to an alarming 109.51 feet (33.38 metre; Source: Central Groundwater Authority {CGA}) in the worst affected areas of south and southwest Delhi.

Showing abject disregard to our traditional water preservation practices, over a period of 50 years, we have completely destroyed major water bodies, like lakes, across the city turning them into garbage dumps. This, of course, is a shame we share with all our cities and towns.

It's ironical, but a culture that reveres rivers as goddesses should have reduced the mighty Yamuna to state of absolute despair. Take a look at her at a place called Wazirabad where 50% of the city's sewage is emptied into the Yamuna, untreated.

Many people across the city buy their drinking water. While Delhi Jal Board's (DJB) monthly bill amounts to Rs 80-100 per family, families in the affected areas end up paying Rs 2,400 already.

Come summers and like any developing but corruption-rid country across the world, water becomes a moneymaking racket. Fights are common and private tanker fleecing customers is a regular phenomenon.

Ageing infrastructure - distribution lines, faulty metres and burst pipelines - resulting in wastage of alarming dimensions - has largely gone unnoticed. Because of old, disrepaired distribution lines, leakage is very high. Nearly, 30% of DJB's water supplied to us is lost due to this.

All the above factors have assured that Delhi will soon have many more painful and parched summers in the years to come.

In the month of April, the issue of water was red hot. All the newspapers were full of stories of its water woes.

First Published: May 12, 2003 22:31 IST