Drinking water: Find permanent solution

Drinking water: Find permanent solution

The Jat quota protesters not only shook Manohar Lal Khattar’s government in Haryana last month, they also rattled the one headed by Arvind Kejriwal in neighbouring Delhi. They did this by targeting Munak canal in Haryana which brings in two-thirds of the national capital’s water supply. The Kejriwal government rushed to Supreme Court, the army secured the canal but the damage was done. For the next few days, large parts of Delhi went without piped water. The damage is being undone and the sudden crisis has now blown over.  The more persistent problem, however, remains. The Munak canal episode may have been unprecedented, but water shortages are almost routine in many parts of the City. Some areas have been relying on water tankers – and the so-called water mafia, which the Aam Aadmi Party government claims to have dented – for years now. The crisis was a reminder of Delhi’s vulnerable situation. The City has to rely on its neighbours Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for almost all of its water supply, which itself is not adequate. Delhi also has to put up with posturing by Haryana every now and then. Recently, the state reminded that it has to keep the interests of its own farmers in mind, and can’t spare more water for Delhi. And in an interview to this newspaper, Delhi’s Water Minister Kapil Mishra asserted that Haryana was not doing Delhi a favour, Yamuna water was the City’s right.

With the crisis behind it, the AAP government says it is now readying itself for the coming summer. Plans are being drawn to ensure that the City has at least one week’s supply of water in reserve should there be another contingency. It also says it is serious about rainwater harvesting, and the bigger buildings will be penalised for not following rules. As the cliché goes, every drop counts – and the government will do well to implement these measures. But for a more permanent solution, it might need to push for the implementation of a couple of projects in neighbouring states, which have been pending for years. Like the Renuka dam project, in which Centre and the governments of Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have stakes.

The AAP had promised free water to households that consumed up to 20 kilolitres per month. On coming to power, it has fulfilled the promise – and Delhi Jal Board has actually made more money during the year despite this subsidy. But it now needs to focus on ensuring that piped water reaches more localities, and there is enough of it. More water may be a tougher goal to achieve than free water.

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