Millennium Post

Water Woes

The residents of Delhi are faced with a host of water troubles. Untreated water, river pollution, depleting water table are just to name a few. Authorities have made several attempts to address the various issues ailing the water crisis in Delhi but have so far failed to achieve significant success.

Water treatment plants meant to treat the effluents produced by industries known as ETPs and sewage produced by people known as STPs in Delhi are quite efficient but are still not able to treat the waste fully resulting in the pollution of Yamuna. This in turn adds to the problem of water scarcity because failure to treat sewage water prevents its recylcing.

Experts say that poor management of wastage has led to the scarcity of water in Delhi. The retreated water can be used for agriculture, which could help meet the demand to some extent. Pulling out too much underground water has led to the creation of unnecessary borewells leading to wastage of public money.

A Delhi-based lawyer of environmental issues says that treatment plants are not functioning properly because of the unintelligent installation. ‘These plants should be installed at junctions where drains open into the rivers. But government has put it in the middle of some drains, from where treated water of these drains gets mixed with untreated water from other drains and falls into the river, which makes no logic,’ said advocate, Mahendra Pandey.

As per Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, 2013, the water treatment plants in Delhi are under-efficient and working to only 40-50 per cent of their desired capacity. As a result, ground water is being exploited to meet water shortage. This has led to Delhi Jal Board (DJB) digging in more borewells, especially in South and South-west Delhi. Injudicious exploitation of the ground water to such an extent would jeopardise the future of Delhi.

Apart from the management of STP or ETP installation, DJB in a recent move claims to have set up interceptors to treat the sewage at three junctions before flowing into natural storm drains. ‘By laying interceptors along the three drains, we will trap sewage from 119 sub-drains that do not lead to an STP,’ said a DJB official. However, an IIT professor of civil engineering department in a report presented before National Green Tribunal (NGT) has challenged the board’s claim and said that the move is not sufficient, since there are still large number of natural storm drains into which polluting sewage falls and that is expected to continue unabated. ‘It is necessary that every bit of sewage should be segregated at source and not allowed to enter even the smallest level of natural drains,’ said professor AK Gosain of IIT Delhi.

After which, NGT has asked civic bodies, while forming a committee, comprising chief engineer of DJB, member secretary Delhi pollution board and joint secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest to inspect the current status of the number and condition of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in the city. The issue garners importance primarily due to sewage flow in natural storm drains, which is eventually released into the Yamuna River.

 In areas like Mehrauli, Sangam Vihar of South Delhi, water crisis is acute. Residents of Talimabad, which falls in Sangam Vihar, are totally dependent on borewells for water supply. Local BJP leader, Deepak Jain, said that there are 160 borewells in this area, which meet demand of 1 lakh litres, however, the total demand is 6 lakh litres. ‘The gap is met somehow through water tankers,’ said Jain.

When it comes to the water problems in South-West, Dwarka, residents are the worst. The sub-city is dependent on DDA for water supply. The area has a demand of 15 million gallons per day (MGD), however, it gets only around 4-5 MGD, out of which only 1.5 MGD is supplied by DJB. DDA draws the remaining water from tubewells but the shortfall is met by private tankers and many households get water supply only once in two days. Quantity of nitrates is also on the rise in underground water, which is also one of the issues that has risen because of untreated water flowing into the Yamuna. The resultant bad quality water, pulled out from borewells, cannot be used in normal life adding to DJB woes.

It is worth noting that though there are various reasons for water woes in the national capital such as dependency from neighbouring states, leakage in distribution of pipe lines, un-metered and unauthorised use of water and many others, experts says despite all these problems, Delhi has sufficient water for the people living here.

Delhi produces 850 MGD of water, which means 400 crore litres. There are 1.70 crore people living in the city. If we go into number crunching, we will get 235 litres per capita. However, according to the standard, 135 liters would be enough for an individual.

So data conclusively shows production is not the problem. Water activist, SA Naqvi, says that there is problem in distribution, which is not properly managed and that is why the board keeps indulging in supply through tankers and other means. The activist also added that DJB has formulated policies keeping in mind that the number of consumers is 20 lakh in contrast to 1.70 crore people, as only 20 lakh people have water metres, which generates revenue. ‘So flaws are not only with concerned authorities, but public is also responsible. People should not take benefit of board’s water until they get connection,’ said Naqvi.
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