“Delhi Jal Board is yet to implement equitable distribution” said perturbed residents of South Delhi's Kailash Hills

“Nobody cares… we just keep getting lame excuses,” says V.K. Arora as he bemoans the daily struggle for water faced by residents of South Delhi's Kailash Hills. At the tail end of the supply chain, residents here have to depend mainly on private water tankers and some stealthily-dug bore wells.

In East Delhi's Ram Nagar Extension, residents recently received water mixed with sewage that smelt foul, looked bad and was absolutely unfit for consumption. “We were told the service pipelines have corroded, but how can the pipelines of the entire neighbourhood go bad simultaneously?” asked a resident.

In Chanakyapuri, Rekha and her family of four have been surviving on measured quantities of water. After Friday night's incident that left a water pipeline in Pitampura damaged, affecting water supply to large parts of the Capital, Rekha's and 149 other families in an apartment block in the VIP area have been relying on ground water supply, which ran out on Tuesday. “A friend of ours went to a club for defence officers this morning to take a bath and we are being forced to eat out. That is how bad the situation is,” she said.

The complaints mentioned above are from consumers who are in the billing net of the Delhi Jal Board. These are consumers who are part of the city's ‘authorised', ‘planned' areas that are assured of a regular water supply. “We are no better than the squatters who clamour for every drop when the water tankers appear. If this is our condition, then who wants to imagine what happens in slums and other unauthorised colonies where water is supplied in rationed quantities?” said Rajiv Khanna, a resident of Vasant Kunj.

In Delhi's summer months, complaints such as these are the norm rather than the exception. The city's water supplier, the DJB, is inundated with calls complaining of no water, less pressure and dirty water. Each year before the onset of summer the DJB chalks out a plan and draws up its force of water tankers to supply water where pipelines run dry.

Reacting to the complaints, the DJB blames limited water availability, the city's habit of not using water judiciously, using pumps to draw more and not replacing their service pipelines.

“Yes, there is limited supply, but how do you explain areas with four hours of supply twice a day and areas with two hours of supply in as many days? Though the DJB talks about it all the time, it has not been able to implement equitable distribution of water. Crores are spent on augmentation of pipelines and construction of underground reservoirs, but the state of water distribution remains the same,” said Mr. Khanna.

Equitable supply of water has been on the DJB agenda for a long time, and senior officials of the water utility claim efforts are continuously made to meet the drinking water needs of the city. “There is an exceptional load on the system. More and more people are being added to the system. But we are working on demand management and trying to cope. We are already working on reducing direct tapping and trying to implement distribution through the UGR network to ensure a degree of sharing,” said a senior DJB official.

While the DJB points out that more water from upper riparian States like Haryana and Himachal Pradesh will ease pressure on the system and insists that interventions like UGRs will even out the distribution of water, consumers like Mr. Arora continue to shell out more for water. “Every alternate day a few neighbours get together and buy water from a private water supplier for which we have to shell out Rs.2,000 to 3,000 per family. And that is how we get water in the summer,” he summed up.

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