Report says raw water available in Delhi insufficient to meet potable water demads

Although the Delhi Government on Monday announced almost 700 litres of water for free per household every day, according to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, the raw water available is not enough to provide potable water to the entire population of Delhi, as per prescribed norms.

The report observes that two dams were proposed on the Yamuna in 1994 to augment raw water in Delhi. These could not be constructed even after 18 years and incurring an expenditure of Rs.214 crore.

The production of potable water at the water treatment plants and waste water recycling plants was also found to be below the designed capacity. The 8 mega-gallon-daily recycling plant at Chandrawal here was commissioned after a delay of over four years.

Drinking water was not being distributed equitably due to a lack of reliable data on population and water supply to different areas, according to the audit report. It added that 24.8 per cent of households in the Capital were being supplied water through tankers in the absence of pipelines, with the average per capita supply at 3.82 litres per day against the prescribed norm of 172 litres. The metering of water at the consumer end was not comprehensive due to which less than 40 per cent of water produced was billed during the past three years, said the report.

The Delhi Human Development Report-2013 brought out by the Institute of Human Development is also in sync with the CAG findings on various water-related issues. According to the report, despite an improvement during 2001-11, access to water in Delhi is still not equitable, with unauthorised colonies and jhuggi jhonpri clusters having much poorer access to water supply compared to other settlements. The residents in these and some other settlements also suffer due to the poor quality of water. Deficit of raw water, leakage from pipelines and deteriorating quality of surface water of the Yamuna has also been highlighted.

The report also discussed the problems in raising revenue in the water sector, coupled with the issue of 20 per cent unmetered connections in 2011-12 that led to losses. The Delhi Jal Board, till recently, was unable to estimate the volume of raw water being treated and the treated water available for distribution.

According to government statistics, about 81.3 per cent of the city’s population received piped drinking water, compared to 75.3 per cent in 2001. The Human Development report observes that the “expansion in the coverage of drinking water supply took place despite a sharp increase in the number of households in Delhi over the period 2001-11 (from 2.55 million in 2001 to 3.34 million in 2011)”.

However, distribution still is not equitable across the city, with the outskirts in North, North-West, North-East and southern districts receiving poor supply. “The poor and under-privileged in Delhi receive subsidised water, but it comes at a price, in terms of time and cost. Hours of waiting in queues at water points and fights around tankers are a common sight in the slums of Delhi….among the Delhi slums, which are solely dependent on government provisioning for water, just half the households have drinking water available within their premises and nearly 10 per cent have to go far away to fetch water,” says the report.

Observing that the continued flow of people from outside the city leads to an ever-increasing demand for drinking water, the report states that the existing production facilities cannot meet the requirement.

The DJB estimates a distribution loss of around 40 per cent of the total water supplied owing to leakages. Besides, seven of the nine revenue districts are said to have poor groundwater availability. The South and South-West districts have been declared as notified areas wherein there is to be no more extraction of groundwater. East, New Delhi, North-East, North-West and West Delhi districts have also been declared as ‘over-exploited areas’ by the government, the report notes.

While a large part of the city is yet to receive metered pipeline supply, the Delhi Government, in the Twelfth Plan, envisages potable and safe drinking water for all residents, round-the-clock water supply in some pilot areas and more equitable distribution. Apart from meeting the Bureau of Indian Standards’ norms on water quality, it also plans to use treated waste water for all non-potable purposes and collect, treat and dispose through interceptor sewers and normal treatment network 95 per cent of the total sewage generated.

The DJB has also been contemplating a public-private partnership to improve the management of water and sewerage system.

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