While leaking mains are left to spurt torrents of waters for hours on end in different parts of Delhi, we are told to fix dripping faucets in our houses
A few days ago Delhites woke up to an extremely relevant, though a little untimely reminder to save every drop of water. Fix that leaking tap in your house. The half page advertisement in almost all the major newspapers of the city was released through the good offices of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB). The reminder came barely 48 hours after torrential rains had hit Delhi. The trees had been rid of the accumulated automobile grime and dust and of the horrible summer months and had re-acquired their natural hues. The city was now reeling under the threat of a flood and most under-passes, subways and arterial roads had gone under, while most sewers and storm water drains were overflowing. The exhortation to save every drop, at this particular hour sounded a little shrill and off key and more than a little ill timed.
It would have been better, at that time, for the venerable DJB to ask the Dilliwalas to not throw garbage and plastics in the drains and sewers because it is this that eventually leads to the choking of sewer lines and storm water drains. But it is too much to expect any of the so called public service organisations to get their act right.
This fervent appeal was directed towards those who are connected to the Delhi Jal Board network and receive what goes in the name of potable water. This message was meant for those who are generally known as the people on the last kilometre or the last couple of hundred metres of the distribution network. They were being asked to save every drop and rightly so.
It has been estimated that almost half of all the water that the Delhi Jal Board pumps into its very large network of pipes is lost due to leakages. We need to remember that we rely on water that is supplied to us by the neighbouring States of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and the quantities that are supplied to Dilliwalas are being withdrawn from an area that is agriculturally among the most productive regions in the country and therefore the annual protests by the chief ministers of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh against Delhi taking all this water, are not without justification.
Despite all this, the advertisement that we are talking about is patently dishonest and irresponsible. Those who wake up at unearthly hours like four in the morning to fill up buckets and drums to meet their daily requirements, those who have to wait for the elusive tanker for hours in residential areas from Dakshinpuri to Dwarka and those falling ill or even dying after drinking unsafe water cannot be held responsible for shortages of water. The perennial shortages resulting from uneven distribution, improper planning and DJB’s inefficiency are being attributed to that one dripping faucet that remains bone dry for most of the day because of no water supply.
The irony is that it is the people of Delhi who are paying DJB to insult their intelligence. It is the tax payers’ money that pays for these advertisements. DJB continues to sell these lies while millions of litres of water is lost through leaking valves along its main supply lines, where water flows at great pressure and even a small leakage, or a burst gasket can lead to phenomenal losses.
There are these leaking mains that the DJB does not bother to fix and they have been leaking for weeks and months and a few for years. Some of these leaking mains are located inside the narrow strips of forests that have managed to survive in Delhi and the DJB brass could argue that no one told them. Articulating their ignorance can only be further evidence of their inefficiency, but there is at least one of these leaking main that no one can claim to have missed, at least no one who has travelled on the Matura Road from Badarpur to Ashram over the last four or five months. This main has been leaking off the Ring Road right under the curve of the Metro Line and next to the busy railway tracks, roughly opposite the Okhla Waterworks and Apollo Hospital for many months.
This huge high-pressure valve begins to spew water at 3 pm every afternoon and continues to flow for 17 hours uninterruptedly till 8 am the next morning. Look at the image and make your own estimate of the loss. I talked to Ajay, he lives at Harkesh Nagar, across the railway line from the leaking pipe, and he told me that everyone from Harkesh Nagar comes here, men take their baths here, men and women wash clothes and everyone carries water from here to meet their needs.
If DJB plugs this hole, they could supply water at least to Harkesh Nagar, a locality that has no piped water supply. The residents of Harkesh Nagar will stop risking their lives and limbs while dodging trains and scampering across the busy railway tracks. If DJB draws appropriate lessons it will fix other leakages also including the leakages that help private water carriers.
Having done this they would be absolutely justified in asking us to fix our leaking faucets, perhaps they won’t even have to ask, people will fix them on their own. In a democracy you need to carry the people with you, but to be able to do so, you need to show that you are worth following.