The huge grey wall running around the Sonia Vihar water treatment plant, with a roll of concertina wires running over it, viciously protects one of the most precious natural resource for the citizens of Delhi -- water.
And for the nearly five lakh residents of Sonia Vihar, who live in the vicinity of the 140 MGD plant, that supplies water from the Ganga canal and the Yamuna to large parts of East, South and South-West Delhi, the wall is also a constant reminder that being close to a source of water does not necessarily mean access to it.
Over the years, they have learnt to live within sniffing distance of one of the largest water treatment facilities in Delhi, without having adequate water for themselves. But still they are a fortunate lot, for at least some water from the plant reaches their colony through community taps. Elsewhere across Delhi, many parts of the city are now completely dependent on supply through tankers.
Right behind the plant wall, a number of community taps dot the Circular Road. But they are few and far in between and so residents have to regularly line up at the end of their lanes for about an hour in order to fill the containers. But this means a lot of trouble and pain to the elderly and the infirm.
Mithal Lal, a retired Birla Textiles employee, is now 72 and resides with his wife Surajmukhi in a one-room tenement in Zero Pushta, about 30 metres from the road where the community taps have been installed.
“We are both ailing. My wife suffers from arthritis and respiratory problems while I have heart and lung problems. But without water we cannot live for a day and so every day I get up at six and follow the ritual of fetching water from the community tap. It takes me nearly 45 minutes to get two buckets of water, with about five litres in each. And in the evening I am forced to make another round,” he rued.
In his neighbourhood, school student Raja Sharma is the one in the family who is supposed to do the daily rounds of the community taps to ensure that his family of four has enough water for drinking and cooking. “We have also got a boring in place for meeting our washing needs. But this water from the taps is great for drinking and cooking,” said his mother, Usha, proudly.
All parts of Sonia Vihar do not get water from the plant. M. K. Vajpayee, a resident of Pocket 3, said not all parts of the colony are equally fortunate when it comes to supply of water. While there are eight to 10 community taps in some of the pockets, Pocket 3 does not have any. “In our pocket, we depend on underground boring water for our daily needs. I have installed a filter as that water is hard,” he said.
Another resident of Pocket 3, Mohammad Irshad carries his daily drinking water supply home from Pocket 1, where he has a motor repair workshop.
Meeting nearly a sixth of Delhi’s water demand, Sonia Vihar plant has been a boon for some of the regularised and DDA colonies of North-East Delhi.
At Chitrakoot DDA MIG flats on East of Loni Road, the residents have not known what a water shortage is since the plant became operational in 2006. “Earlier, we did not have a reliable supply, but now we get sweet Ganga water for at least three hours each in the morning and evening,” said Suman Lata, a housewife.
The plant had provided succour to the residents of large parts of South Delhi too. Jaitpur, on the Faridabad border, had gained immensely due to the commissioning of the plant when about 2 MGD of supply had been taken for Badarpur.
“But ever since much of the supply has been diverted away and many parts of Jaitpur have again gone dry,” said Harish Rawat, an area resident.