Delhi’s poor fight for every drop of water - GulfToday

Delhi’s poor fight for every drop of water

India-Watershortage

Residents fill their containers with drinking water from a municipal tanker in New Delhi. File/Reuters

India’s water crisis is far from even-handed - the elite in Delhi and most other parts of the country remain unaffected while the poor scramble for supplies every day.

As a result, fights frequently break out when people, mostly can-carrying women and children, sprint towards the arriving tanker.

In this teeming capital city of more than 20 million people, a worsening drought is amplifying the vast inequality between India’s rich and poor.

The politicians, civil servants and corporate lobbyists who live in substantial houses and apartments in central Delhi pay very little to get limitless supplies of piped water - whether for their bathrooms, kitchens or to wash the car, dog, or spray a manicured lawn. They can do all that for as little as $10-$15 a month.

But step into one of the slum areas in the inner city, or a giant disorganised housing estate on the outskirts and there is a daily struggle to get and pay for very limited supplies of water, which is delivered by tanker rather than pipe. And the price is soaring as supplies are fast depleting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official residence and those of his cabinet are in central Delhi, as are those of most lawmakers.

That may help to explain why it took until this week for Modi to call for a massive water conservation programme, the first big initiative by the government despite years of warnings about dry reservoirs and depleted water tables, policy makers and water industry experts said.

Telecom sales representative Amar Nath Shukla, who lives in a giant unauthorised housing sprawl on the south side of Delhi, says he is now paying Rs700 ($10) for a small tanker to bring him, his wife and three school-age children 2,000 litres of water, their weekly quota.

A year ago, Shukla would buy two of the rusty, oval-shaped tankers a week for 500 rupees each but he cut back to one as the price climbed 40 per cent.

“Why should a densely populated settlement get so little of water and why should the sparsely-populated central district of New Delhi receive so much of extra supply?” asked Shukla.

More than 30 other residents Reuters spoke to in his Sangam Vihar district also complained about the quality of water.

Reuters