While hundreds of water bodies across the Capital are being given a new lease of life, there are many that continue to choke on human waste and refuse. These water bodies, mainly around urban villages with little or no sewer facilities, have in themselves become the receptacles of the waste that destroys them and the life they support.
In a report compiled on the state of the 120 restored water bodies in the city, attention has been focused on the lack of infrastructure in these villages and the havoc it has wrought on them.
“Over the past few months we inspected about 78 of the 120 water bodies that have been revived and restored by various landowning agencies, including the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation (DSIIDC), the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Delhi Government’s Revenue Department. While work on most water bodies has been satisfactory, there are a large number of them that are still in poor shape,” says Vinod Kumar Mishra of Prakhar Helpful Society, a non-government organisation that is also part of the committee formed for inspection of the water bodies that have %revived or are being revived.
Mr. Mishra blamed the Delhi Jal Bord for not installing the infrastructure in these villages to tap sewage. “The best maintained water bodies are those that are outside the boundaries of the villages. But the ones that have villages surrounding them have all kinds of sewage and waste being infused into them. The Delhi Jal Board should without delay ensure there is some mechanism to tap the sewage and not allow it to fall into these water bodies, because until that is done no amount of effort or money will revive them,” he said.
Of the 120 water bodies that are being inspected by the committee, 74 are in South-West Delhi, 38 in North-West Delhi, four in West Delhi, one each in South Delhi and North Delhi and two in North-East Delhi.
“The areas where water is scarcest are also the areas where the number of water bodies is the least. We also noticed that those areas where the local people are being involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the water bodies, the revival has been commendable. People, especially the older generation, are emotionally and socially connected with water bodies and they are more receptive to the ideas of %conservation,” says Mr. Mishra.
Referring to the state of these restored water bodies, he adds: “The ones restored by the ASI are the best managed. For instance, the Red Fort Baoli is in excellent condition; there you can actually see how the flood plains of the Yamuna work, and how clean the water is from that recharge zone. Similarly in Dhansa village, the water body has been revived well.”
Mr. Mishra said the installation of rainwater harvesting techniques at some of the water bodies too has been a welcome step that will go a long way in their revival and in improving the water-table.
The challenges that remain are the encroachments and the sewage that flows into them. “I disagree that there are water bodies that cannot be revived. There is little that can always be done; for instance, fence them, install sewage trapping mechanism, grow plants around them, prevent encroachment even if it is of a temple or a mosque and then see the results. It is easy to destroy what we have, but with concerted efforts and involvement of the people, there is still a lot that can be done to save the 800-odd water bodies that we are left with,” says Mr. Mishra.