Sponsoring a scarcity

The Delhi Jal Board makes every effort to aggravate the water shortage in Delhi

Published: Friday 15 June 2001

at a time when the capital is facing a severe water crisis, the Delhi Jal Board ( djb ) seems least concerned about the problem. On May 11, the Delhi high court ( hc ) summoned the djb along with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi ( mcd ), New Delhi Municipal Corporation ( ndmc ) and the ministry of Union urban development regarding a petition filed by Tapas, a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation ( ngo ), on the shortage of safe drinking water. All the departments were present. But djb dared to defy court by absenting itself on the day of the hearing. The court expressed its anger by imposing a fine of Rs 2,500 on the djb .

"While the djb admits that there is a shortage of 700 million litres of water per day, it fails to appear in a hearing that could decide on the water problem of about 1.3 million residents of the capital," says Rajesh Kumar, media advisor with Tapas. The hc also asked the ministry to answer as to when the building bylaws would be amended to make rainwater harvesting mandatory. djb is not very keen on rainwater harvesting as can be observed from the statements of its officials. "During the hearing, djb said that water harvesting was not feasible for Delhi because of haphazard housing constructions," Kumar adds. Tapas countered by submitting a copy of the Centre for Science and Environment's ( cse ) book Making Water Everybody's Business citing the case of amendment made in Chennai's building bylaws. The court has now asked the ministry to look into the Chennai Metropolitan Groundwater (Regulation) Act while issuing directions on rainwater harvesting in Delhi.

Kumar narrates an incident that illustrates the manipulative methods of djb. "The court had asked the djb to test the water quality in presence of the petitioner, Tapas. To this, the djb said that they must be informed at least 24-48 hours prior to the testing. We knew that if we inform them, the officials would treat the water before testing. With no option, we did as they wanted and the test results showed the quality of water is good," says Kumar.

"When the results were presented before the court, justice Anil Singh Dev asked the djb if the quality of water is good, then could the Delhi's residents do away with their water filters like aquaguard? The djb had no answer and mumbled that mud and some contaminants come with the water and so the water filters must not be discontinued," he adds.

The djb chairperson recently said that a 40 million gallons treatment plant has been commissioned. Considering the scarcity of water, where will water be available for treatment? Says Kumar: "About 40 per cent of djb water is lost due to leakages." Tapas has also suggested that the court monitor the "publicity stunts" of djb, which claims to have installed water harvesting mechanisms in 100 of its buildings.

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