With two protests outside the DJB office in the past two weeks, the BJP has been increasing the tempo of its attacks on the AAP government over lack of drinking water in south Delhi’s unauthorised colonies — particularly Tughlakabad. But experts and DJB officials said the problem wasn’t simply one of insufficient political will, but a rapidly declining watertable.
The BJP has been organising protests outside DJB offices for the last 10 days. Accusing the AAP government of “fooling” the residents of Delhi, the BJP alleged the authorities were selectively supplying water to residents. “The people residing in Harkesh Nagar are constrained to drink polluted water. The sample of the water has been given to DJB officials on the spot,” Ramesh Bidhuri, BJP MP from the area, who claimed to have given a week’s ultimatum to the government failing which the party “will protest on the roads outside the Delhi Assembly and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence”, said.
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Meanwhile, the Congress too slammed the AAP for Delhi’s water woes. At a demonstration in Chhattarpur — which has witnessed an alarming decline in the watertable — Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said, “The AAP government has not worked out any summer action plan to address the problem of Delhi’s water woes. The situation is getting worse every year, yet the government has made no plan for the summer.”
According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), 53 per cent of wells in Delhi showed a drop in the water level between November 2013 and November 2014. Officials said that the situation was particularly ‘critical’ in south Delhi. A recent study by the CGWB notes that “deeper water levels are mostly found in south and southwest districts of NCT Delhi, while the shallower water levels are found in central, northern and eastern part of Delhi”. It notes that the watertable in over half the wells in south district has dropped to “more than 40 metres below ground level”.
“The rate of decline in some districts in south and southwest Delhi has been as high as 1.7 m and 2 m annually. The problem lies with the fact that water is being drawn out, but there isn’t sufficient recharging of the watertable,” a CGWB official said.
Reacting to the accusations, a senior DJB official maintained that while efforts were being made to ensure that Tughlakabad gets access to regular water supply, the dip in the watertable had made matters worse.
Stating that parties were trying to politicise the issue, the official said, “Over the years, the watertable in the area has gone down considerably. Moreover, we are trying to revive tubewells. However, if the water level has gone down in the area, this measure will provide little relief. Tankers are sent to the area according to the residents’ needs.”