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Jaipur: Digging deep

As the capital of India's driest state, Jaipur seems to be representative of Rajasthan. The water table drop in Jaipur has been a phenomenal 15 metres in April this year, and the annual figure is about 40 metres. Pre-monsoon showers notwithstanding, the search for water has reached unprecendented depths. And the effort may not be enough in the long run.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Jaipur
PUBLISHED ON JUL 01, 2003 01:56 PM IST
The most famous landmark of the Pink City - the Hawa Mahal

Of the 32 districts in Rajasthan, 28 are facing severe depletion of ground water resources. The problem in 18 of these has been marked 'critical' and Jaipur along with six other districts falls in the 'most critical' category, where the water table depletion exceeds 40 metres annually.

These figures released by the groundwater department augur a crisis that has already begun in Jaipur. The water table drop has been 15 metres in April, and paradoxically, it's being driven deeper as the Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED) burrows underground to meet burgeoning demands. Supply, however, is erratic in certain areas and minimal in others.

Demand vs supply: HED pumps an phenomenal 3,200 lakh litres per day for Jaipur city alone, which is 1.5 lakh litres over last year's figure. However, the department is struggling to meet demands, especially in the interiors of Walled City. After the Ramgarh Lake dried up, extraction is entirely dependent on 1,000 tube wells and over 1,500 hand pumps.

"Underground reserves are depleting fast and we are left with very few options," says PHED executive engineer DR Solanki, distribution in-charge for Walled City and adjoining areas. Early this month, 18 new tube wells were being planned to enhance supply by an additional 60 lakh litres.

Interestingly, the PHED might actually be adding to its troubles than solving them. Figures compiled by the state government earlier this month indicates that 22 per cent of the total water pumped by the PHED is wasted. This amounts to 500 lakh litres per day.

Infrastructure losses: A major part of this water is lost through leaking pipelines, while the remainder goes unaccounted due to faulty or illegal connections. Further, a number of the PHED's main reservoirs have leaks that the department says cannot be fixed during summer. "Repair is impossible because the reservoirs cannot be emptied even for a day due to the water crisis," officials say. Across 32 pumping stations in the city, the department receives an average of six complaints per day. Almost all of them have to do with leaking pipes and low pressure. 

The Jaipur district administration prepared a contingency plan to ensure regular water supply in summer. The plan - with assistance from the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the PHED - proposed 150 hand pumps and 26 tube wells to enhance supply in urban areas. The numbers for rural areas are 270 and 16 respectively. Additional supply was made through almost 1,000 tankers to over 700 villages and hamlets. In the Jaipur city areas 50 handpumps were installed and 20 tubewells dug.

Reviving tradition: Further, under the sector reform project, traditional water sources like wells and baoris have been identified for restoration as part of drought relief work. Special arrangements are also being put in place to regularly fill up watering holes used by animals in rural areas.

Even as these measures are followed through in the next two months, the level of optimism somewhat follows the water table decline. "Even all this might not be enough," PHED officials warn.

Devajit Sharma

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