The very purpose of laying interlocking tiles on footpaths, road medians and traffic islands is being defeated. What is being done is in fact designed to ensure that not a drop of water seeps in

The incredible speed with which residents of Delhi are withdrawing their subsoil water can be gauged from the fact that now they have to sink bore wells up to depths of 300 feet or more, whereas it was not difficult to find water at depths of 10-20 feet less than 50 years ago.

This has obviously set alarm bells ringing and there is constant talk of rain water harvesting. Many of those who feel strongly for the environment began a campaign against unnecessary concretisation in Delhi. It was argued that more and more land needs to be left open for rain water to seep into the sub soil. If we continue to exploit the sub soil water, and do nothing to replenish it through natural aquifers, very shortly we will have no water left.

The argument was valid but the builders who want to concretise everything were not very happy. Very soon they came up with a solution that seemed to present what is known as a win-win solution, the builders could go on building and water would still seep into the sub stratum. The magical solution was interlocking tiles.

It was proposed that foot paths, road medians, traffic islands, etc could be paved with interlocking tiles. These tiles, it was suggested, would rest on a porous bed of sand and grit that would allow rain water to seep in from between the joints and still provide a hard walking surface for pedestrians. It was also claimed that this tiling would greatly reduce the menace of dust because most areas with loose soil will now get covered with these tiles.

The mad rush to pave all surfaces with these magical tiles has assumed epidemic proportions. Each assembly area, every municipal ward and every other administrative division seems to be competing with its counterparts to have more and more of their land area covered in these tiles, the Commonwealth games provided an additional fillip to this paving frenzy.

Surprisingly, in this melee to pave, the very purpose of laying the interlocking tiles is being defeated; they are now being placed on layers of poured concrete that is almost ritually covered by a layer of sand and grit. What is being done is in fact designed to ensure that not a drop of water seeps in.

The process of digging the earth in the medians or in foot paths levelling it, pouring concrete on it, covering up the layer of concrete with a layer of clay, grit sand and then placing the final layer of interlocking tiles is currently going on at Aruna Asaf Ali Road.

The callous disregard for the environment and the taxpayers' money that informs such perfidy is one of a piece with the haste with which most of the storm water drains and most of the streams, now called nalas, that were at one time tributaries of the Yamuna and were natural aquifers, have not only been covered up but their floors have also been concretised to remove once and for all any chance that the city has of replenishing its aquifers. Incidentally, the concrete covering of most of the storm water drains have also been covered with a layer of clay, sand and grit and overlaid with interlocking tiles.

Why is this paving being resorted to? To benefit the contractors obviously, or is there another explanation that has totally escaped those who worry about such minor details?

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