In the Chandra household, every member is assigned the task of fetching water from the private tankers that come twice or thrice in a week. The Chandras live in Mahavir Vihar in the Palam constituency where there is no supply of the Delhi Jal Board’s piped water and when the private tankers come, it is a virtual fight for every drop, even though this water is paid for.
“For years now, we have been told that there will be water in our homes. A pipeline was laid some years ago, but there is no water for the areas at the tail-end. It seems the promise of getting us water was just an election promise, because it’s been five years now and we’re still waiting,” said Jagdish Chandra, the head of the household.
Complains of no piped supply, inadequate supply and dirty water are evenly spread over the city, little wonder then that water — its availability and quality — has emerged as one of the main issues that will impact the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls.
In a survey conducted by the Aam Aadmi Party across 70 Assembly constituencies, water emerged as the most important factor that will affect elections. Twenty eight per cent of the respondents said water was the main issue that affects their life. In a similar pre-poll survey conducted by the Bharatiya Janata Party, water crisis was a problem with a smaller number, 9.5 per cent, but the party has been criticising the Congress government of failing to improve the water supply situation in the city, despite raising tariffs.
Even as the city government claims Delhi has the highest per capital availability of water, there are areas that can be best described as parched as the city’s water utility battles a daily shortfall of about 350 MGD (million gallons per day).
The Congress Government has also failed to negotiate with Haryana for an additional quantum of water from the Rs. 560 crore Munak Canal project. The two State governments have been sparring over the sharing of 80 MGD of water, which Delhi claims is rightfully its share, but Haryana has been unwilling to release.
The government’s decision to unroll a public private partnership, ostensibly to streamline the water distribution and revenue collection has emerged as another sore point with the consumers, who see it as a move to privatise the utility.