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Delhi water crisis: As Kejriwal blames neighbouring states and approaches SC, here’s how the AAP govt’s inefficiency is driving Delhi’s water woes amid heatwaves

But beyond the politics of the blame game, which the AAP masters by passing the buck of its failures on the Centre and neighbouring states, vendetta politics, and so on, it is the dereliction of the AAP government, perhaps stemmed from their incompetence, that has exacerbated the water scarcity in the national capital.

With mercury in the national capital soaring to unprecedented levels as it registered 52.3 degrees Celsius earlier this week, the miseries of the residents of Delhi since they elected the AAP government in the state seem to have no end. Amidst the severe bout of scorching heatwaves, Delhites are confronted with yet another problem in the form of an acute water crisis.

Visuals from several areas within the national capital show desperate residents scrambling with empty buckets to line up in front of water tankers, with many jumping the queues to get over the tanker and fill their vessels.

As the water crisis exacerbates, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is currently out on interim bail in the Delhi liquor scam, set to end tomorrow, June 1, has expressed concern over the matter and blamed the Centre and the BJP for the water crisis gripping the national capital.

“The whole country suffers from a severe heatwave, leading to water and electricity shortages. Last year, Delhi’s peak power demand was 7,438 MW. This year, it has risen to 8,302 MW. Despite this increase, Delhi’s power supply remains stable, and the city is not experiencing power outages like other states,” Kejriwal shared on social platform X.

Highlighting the water crisis in the capital, Kejriwal stated, “The demand for water supply has surged due to the heatwave. Neighbouring states have reduced the water supply to Delhi, resulting in a high demand and minimal shortage.”

“We need to unite to address this issue. The BJP is organising sit-in protests against our government, which won’t solve any problems. I earnestly request everyone to come together to provide relief to the people of Delhi instead of engaging in politics. If the BJP can persuade its governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to supply some water to Delhi for a month, the people of Delhi would greatly appreciate their efforts,” the chief minister added.

Reportedly, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi has also moved the Supreme Court to seek a direction to neighbouring states, particularly Haryana, to supply more water to the crisis-hit national capital. 

The Delhi government enacted emergency measures on Thursday to address the severe water crisis in the capital amidst an unprecedented heatwave.

In response to the water shortage, the government instructed the Delhi Jal Board to combat water wastage and imposed a ₹2,000 fine on violators. Additionally, the use of potable water at construction sites has been prohibited.

Delhi minister Atishi announced the ban, stating, “Many car repair and car washing centres are using the Delhi Jal Board’s drinking water. We are banning the use of the Delhi Jal Board’s drinking water at these centres.”

“Starting tomorrow, DPCC teams will inspect car washing and repair centres. I want to appeal to the people of Delhi… we are currently in an emergency due to the heatwave,” the minister said on Thursday.

AAP’s incompetence, Delhi Jal Board, allegations of money laundering and more

Water management is a state subject and hence, the prerogative of the AAP government in Delhi to ensure the residents get a continuous and uninterrupted supply of water, its leaders are now passing the buck by blaming the centre and the BJP for their incompetence and inability to provide basic necessities to their subjects. The centre does have the responsibility to supplement the efforts of the States on water conservation and recharge, including rainwater harvesting, through technical and financial support, but primarily it is the state government’s responsibility to ensure its subject with water supply. Yet, the AAP government in Delhi is indulging in shifting the blame onto the Centre. Before Kejriwal, Delhi water minister Atishi Marlena had blamed the BJP for the escalating water crisis in New Delhi. 

But beyond the politics of the blame game, which the AAP masters by passing the buck of its failures on the Centre and neighbouring states, vendetta politics, and so on, it is worth noting the genesis of the water crisis and how the dereliction of the AAP government has played a central role in exacerbating the water scarcity in the national capital.

The national capital has long faced water scarcity, heavily relying on neighbouring states to fulfil most of its water needs. Water from the upper Yamuna reaches the Carrier Lined Channel (CLC) Munak, the Delhi Sub-Branch (DSB) canals from Haryana, and the Upper Ganga Canal via Muradnagar from Uttar Pradesh is channelled through nine water treatment plants to reach households. However, this supply falls short of the city’s total requirements. Delhi has a daily water demand of 1,290 million gallons per day (MGD), but the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the government agency responsible for the supply of potable water to most of the National Capital Territory region of Delhi, India, currently supplies only 1,000 MGD, a report published by Business Standard said. The shortfall is made up by tapping into Delhi’s groundwater reserves. 

The report cites sources to assert that Jal Board intends to install 1,034 new tube wells to draw an extra 23.45 MGD of groundwater on top of the existing extraction of 135 MGD, aiming to satisfy Delhi’s increasing water needs. However, this move could lead to adverse effects such as diminished water quality, depletion of the water table, and a risk to future water provisions.

However, the Delhi Jal Board has been embroiled in a controversy lately. In April 2024, the Rouse Avenue Court in Delhi accepted the prosecution complaint submitted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Delhi Jal Board tender money laundering case.

The Delhi Jal Board’s tender awarding method reportedly involved money laundering. Among those named in the ED’s chargesheet are Jagdish Kumar Arora, Anil Kumar Aggarwal and chartered accountant Tajendra Singh. Jagdish Arora and Anil Aggarwal were taken into custody by the agency on 31st January last year.

According to the Enforcement Directorate, NKG Infrastructure Limited was given the flow meter contract by Jagdish Kumar Arora, the former Chief Engineer of Delhi Jal Board, at an “inflated cost” of Rs 38 crore. The ED discovered throughout the inquiry that M/S NKG Infrastructure Ltd submitted falsified or misleading documents to secure the bid. It has been also revealed that Jagdish Kumar Arora knew the company didn’t match the technical requirements for the tender. Moreover, the ED disclosed that Anil Kumar Aggarwal’s sole proprietorship, M/S Integral Screws Ltd, was the recipient of the assignment subcontracted by M/S NKG Infrastructure Ltd.

It was also observed that only about Rs 14 crore of the Rs 24 crore payment that the Delhi Jal Board obtained was utilized for the contract work and the remaining amount was either misappropriated or spent as bribes. The ED further underlined that Jagdish Kumar Arora was paid a bribe of Rs. 3.19 crore, a portion of which he transferred to other Delhi Jal Board officials and the AAP to employ it in polls. According to the agency, Jagdish Kumar Arora, the former chief engineer of the Delhi Jal Board, “transferred” Rs 2 crore in bribe money to his departmental colleagues and the AAP for use as election finances.

Underlying causes for Delhi’s chronic water crisis

One of the reasons for the current water crisis is the overexploitation of groundwater reserves in Delhi. With limited water resources and dependency on neighbouring states for water requirements, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has steadily increased groundwater extraction in the last five years. A Hindustan Times report states Groundwater extraction was raised from 86 million gallons per day (MGD) in 2020 to around 135 MGD in 2024.

The government’s inefficiency in reducing pollution of the existing water resources has also played a pivotal role in bringing about the water crisis residents face today. High ammonia levels (exceeding 2.5 parts per million) in the Yamuna have long caused poor water supply in parts of Delhi. Increased ammonia levels often lead to a 50 per cent reduction in production at the Wazirabad and Chandrawal water treatment plants. 

The affected areas include Civil Lines, Hindu Rao Hospital and surrounding areas, Kamla Nagar, Shakti Nagar, Karol Bagh, Pahar Ganj, NDMC areas, Old and New Rajinder Nagar, Patel Nagar, Baljeet Nagar, Prem Nagar, Inderpuri, Kalkaji, Govindpuri, Tughlakabad, Sangam Vihar, and Ambedkar Nagar. Despite a proposal for an ammonia treatment plant to purify the polluted Yamuna water, construction has yet to begin even after a year.

Besides, the scourge of stubble burning continues to plague Delhi, despite empty assurances by CM Kejriwal and the AAP government that it is working on a war footing to address the menace. The stubble burning last year from AAP-governed Punjab was significant, severely affecting the national capital’s environment, enveloping it with a thick layer of smog in the winters when the farmers burn stubble, and locking the greenhouse emission gases in the atmosphere, driving up temperatures. This has invariably resulted in Delhi often featuring top in the list of most polluted cities in the world.

These, along with sundry other factors, have brought to the fore the pronounced effects of Climate Change facing the national capital and the country in general. While the central leadership under PM Modi has markedly shifted towards focusing on utilising renewable sources of energy, the same kind of urgency is lacking in state governments, most notably by the AAP-led Delhi government to incorporate measures that would help the city tackle the 21st-century problem faced by cities across the globe.

The Arvind Kejriwal government will have to go beyond shirking their responsibilities and pinning the blame for their failures on others. Even during the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the city struggled for a requisite supply of oxygen cylinders, causing numerous deaths that could have been avoided if the AAP government had built capacity and improved healthcare facilities. Instead, we saw a familiar pattern of shifting the blame play out as Kejriwal accused the Centre and neighbouring states of not providing Delhi with enough oxygen supplies to cater to the rising demands as the victims of COVID-19 surged in the national capital.

Years later, Kejriwal is again blaming the neighbouring states and the centre for what is essentially a state subject and comes under the purview of the state government. Accusing the Centre of non-cooperation and approaching the Supreme Court are temporary measures for relief and shifting the blame; it is high time that Arvind Kejriwal and his party come up with proactive measures and design government policies that address the underlying causes of the water crisis in Delhi and associated issues so that the residents are not left at the mercy of neighbouring states and the courts to fulfil their basic necessities.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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