Relook Free-Water Coverage: Delhi must cost a payment for water to be able to get wastewater therapy proper
Delhi will face acute water shortages during this festive season as the Yamuna supply is poor and the Ganga Canal is currently being repaired. The current water stress in Delhi should arouse the National Capital Territory (NCT) government to the waste of its free water policy as well as to the urgent need of the state capital for water protection. It's not like the NCT government was caught unawares. A 2018 study by NITI Aayog made Delhi one of 21 cities at high risk of water stress. However, the government continues to provide 20,000 liters of water per month to 5.3 lakh households free of charge. If the consumption exceeds this, the usual fees for full consumption will be charged. Some argue that this is a good way to ensure that consumption is limited while treating water as a basic public good and a right to governance. The free water, which is limited to 20 kiloliters and whose tariff policy also discourages consumption, has not really helped to limit consumption – in fact, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ruled in a decision last year that the housing associations would side leave cap by supplementing consumption with water from illegal boreholes; By July of this year, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had identified over 19,000 illegal wells and sealed over 7,000.
A 2014 report by the Delhi Parks and Gardens Society highlighted that at least 200 bodies of water in the state capital had been tampered with due to inaction and even the possible consent of staff from several authorities. Aside from the depletion of natural sources, Delhi has performed poorly on wastewater management. In 2019, an estimated 2,730 million liters of wastewater were generated per day, while according to an ORF paper published in June this year, only 66% of it could be treated. The full treatment capacity is only 80% of the wastewater generated. Add to this factors such as nearly 40% distribution losses (as reported by DJB), poor rainwater harvesting – less than 10% of the 15,706 private buildings and housing associations registered for mandatory harvesting have the necessary infrastructure – and Delhi's water mismanagement is becoming severe.
While Union Ministry Jal Shakti has set guidelines for water use by industry, mandates water tests, and mandates NOCs for groundwater abstraction, it also needs to develop guidelines for groups like households and farmers. The Delhi government needs to seriously rethink its free water policy. Indeed, correct pricing would result in wise use, releasing water that can be supplied to economically vulnerable households, and easing water bills through direct transfer of services. The state capital also needs to make a more concerted effort on recycling / wastewater management – as this newspaper pointed out, Israel recycles almost 90% of its wastewater through water smart practices and technology. While the Delhi government spoke of introducing Singapore-style wastewater reclamation technology, there is little evidence locally.
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