Between a rock and a hard place

Between a rock and a hard place


As summer approaches, hours-long power outages and water scarcity will return to haunt Delhiites. The city’s power generation companies, power distribution companies (discoms) and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) have failed to fulfil the growing demand.
Delhi suffers from shortage of electricity as it is totally dependent on other states and national power generation companies for electricity supply. The daily demand for power in the capital is likely to break all records this summer, as is the demand for water.

“The peak demand of electricity is likely to cross 6,000 megawatt a day against last year’s 5,653 MW a day,” Delhi Transco Ltd spokesperson Rishi Raj says.
After the national grid breakdown in 2012, which led to a blackout in Delhi and neighbouring states, the then Congress government approached Centre for `islanding' Delhi, so that a power grid collapse doesn't affect the city. Former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had demanded diversifying its sources of power supply to decrease Delhi’s dependency on major power companies and other states.
But she failed to give a push to  power generation in Delhi itself.

The gas turbine plant in Bawana area, built at a cost of Rs 4,500 crore, is not fully functional. Reliance Industries, which has the contract of supplying gas from Krishna Godavari D6 (KG D6) basin, refused to do so, citing a shortage. The total power generation capacity of this plant is more than 1,371 MW a day.

“Only 25 per cent of this plant is working, which can only contribute 240-300 MW a day against the peak demand of more than 5,500 MW per day. Reliance was supposed to supply ample quantity of gas but it refused to do so citing lack of gas,” a senior Delhi government official says.

In July 2013, RIL started releasing 0.83 million standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) of gas to the Bawana gas turbine plant, but it only helped to increase the power production to 90 MW.

“As per the initial agreement, RIL was supposed to supply 1.56 mmscmd gas to the Bawana plant, but currently it supplies less than than 1 mmscmd,” the official adds.
The former Sheila Dikshit government had threatened RIL several times that it would cancel the agreement if the company did not fulfil the demand, but she never took any action. As a result the rate of power produced by it reached Rs 13 per unit, which is two times costlier than the average in Delhi.

Another proposed 750 MW gas turbine plant in Bamnauli, which was okayed by the cabinet in 2011, still remains on paper.

“These plants were planned to make Delhi a power surplus state but lack of access to raw material led to such problems. The former AAP government also failed to make Delhi a power-generating state,” the official adds.

The city government’s other power generation companies Pragati Power Corporation Ltd (PPCL) and Indraprastha Power Generation Company Ltd (IPGCL) supply a mere 330 and 270 MW respectively.

Water scarcity

Despite the former Aam Aadmi Party government’s claim of providing free 666 litres of water a day to every household, more than 60 per cent of the population of Delhi doesn’t have piped water connection. During winter, households of all unauthorised colonies meet their need through tankers and illegal borewells. But in peak summer, the groundwater level dips and the tanker service also gets hit by water scarcity.

Against the city’s demand of more than 1,000 million gallons a day (MGD), the DJB supplies only 850 MGD to the city. The board actually doesn’t have a fair idea of the ever-growing demand of water of Delhiites.

At many places, people get into fights to fill their buckets from government, non-government or water mafia-owned tankers.

The board also doesn’t have an effective mechanism for effective waste water treatment. The filtered used water could be utilised for agriculture and industrial purposes, but more than 500 MGD goes directly into the Yamuna due to lack of water treatment plants.

“Water supply has been increased from 591 MGD in 1998 to 850 MGD in 2013. Sewage treatment has almost doubled from 284 MGD in 1998 to 545 MGD in 2013,” a senior Delhi government official says.

“The Delhi Jal Board is actively promoting the use of treated effluent in order to bridge the gap between demand and supply of potable water in the city. So DJB has written to a number of government agencies such as PWD, NDMC, EDMC, NTPC and others, encouraging them to use treated effluent,” a DJB official says.

“Delhi is a water-stressed city due to inadequate availability of raw water. Migration of people from adjoining states and rapid rate of urbanisation also add pressure to the limited water resources of the city,” the official adds.

The other problem with ‘grey water’ (filtered used water) is heavy price. The board charges Rs 7 per kilolitre for grey water. At least 200 MGD of grey water is being used by Pragati Power Corporation Private Ltd, Delhi Development Authority, Central Public Works Department and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd.

Delhi is also dependent on other states to fulfil its daily needs of water.

The two major water treatment plants in Wazirabad and Chandrawal draw water from the Yamuna in Haryana, but they can only purify raw water with ammonia level of up to 0.2 parts per million (ppm).

Last month, the two plants were forced to curtail supply to 50 per cent when Haryana dumped untreated waste into the Yamuna, resulting in sudden growth of ammonia level. The problem triggered water crisis in many parts of Delhi.

Haryana also owes 80 MGD of water to Delhi.  At the time of construction of Munak canal in Haryana, the then Dikshit government invested hundreds of crores to ensure that Haryana supplies 80 MGD when the canal is operational.

But Haryana government refused to do so, citing water crisis in its own cities. The UP government also supplies water to the capital through Gang Nahar.

The absence of a mechanism to find leakages in DJB’s pipeline also leads to wastage of heavy amount of water. The board has no clear data about the quantity of water getting wasted through a number of leakages in its pipeline. Following the former AAP government’s orders, the DJB had launched a massive campaign against the water mafia. But residents of unauthorised colonies are still buying water from private water distributors.