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Delhi Water Crisis: Time for AAP to stop focusing on politicising the crisis and look at its own mismanagement of water

Ruling Aam Aadmi Party has only tried to politicise the issue to hide its own shortcomings. AAP has repeatedly focused only on blaming Haryana and not tried to sort out its own mismanagement.

In Delhi, getting water has become a daily struggle for survival. As every new day dawns, the tensions surrounding the isolated water pump deepen with residents assembling, their faces lined with exhaustion and anguish, knowing that obtaining even a drop of water is essential for their families’ survival.

On Monday, June 10th, several Delhi women and AAP leaders staged a protest against the Haryana government alleging that it deprived the national capital of its rightful share of water. Kuldeep Kumar, AAP’s Delhi State Vice-President and MLA, along with colleagues Shiv Charan Goel, Vinayy Mishra, Somdutt Sharma, and Women’s Wing President Sarika Chaudhary, participated in the demonstration next to Haryana Bhawan, Mandi House.

Protesters chanted slogans against the BJP for stripping Delhi of ‘its share’ of water and demanded that the Central and Haryana governments assure the quick release of Delhi’s portion of water. AAP MLA Kuldeep Kumar asserted that the current water crisis in the city is unmanageable. He also stated that the Delhi government had been asking the Haryana and the Himachal Pradesh governments, and also the LG to ensure adequate water for Delhi.

AAP leaders protesting for water outside Haryana Bhavan

He stated that the Delhi government had also approached the Supreme Court. Still, despite the court’s order, the Haryana government was refusing to release 137 cusecs of water from Himachal Pradesh. The AAP claimed that the Haryana government has also halted the flow of 200 cusecs of water from other canals into Delhi. The AAP leaders also added that till the city does not get its full share of water, they would remain on the roads.

Haryana CM says, ‘AAP lying, water being provided as agreed’

Meanwhile, the Haryana Government slammed the AAP government in Delhi for lying. “Lying is in their DNA,” said CM of Haryana Nayab Singh Saini. He further maintained that the state was releasing water to the national capital, over and above the agreed-upon quantity, and that it was internal mismanagement of the capital that was forcing its residents to beg and protest for water like never before.

He reiterated that the AAP leaders were lying and that Haryana had been issuing water supply to the capital as agreed. “AAP had raised the issue earlier as well but back then also it was found that the state was giving water to the capital as per the signed agreement,” Saini was quoted as saying.

Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva further held the AAP government responsible for the ongoing water crisis indicating that the government was stealing water from the Munak canal and providing the same via tankers to the locals in exchange for money. “The tanker mafia, run by AAP MLAs and Ministers, steals water from the Munak canal in exchange for which they earn money. This is the main reason for the lack of water in Delhi,” the BJP leader was quoted as saying.

Several parts of Delhi have been affected by a lack of water due to the city’s current heatwave. Slums, resettlement colonies, and villages are particularly hard-struck, forcing residents to purchase water tanks or rely on Delhi Jal Board (DJB) tankers.

Himachal Pradesh agrees water supply after SC’s directions

Amid extreme heat and temperatures reaching over 50°C, the Delhi government had turned to the Supreme Court (SC) in the first week of June for prompt action to tackle its rising water crisis. It asked that the state of Haryana release additional water to alleviate the issue and bring respite to millions of Delhi residents.

Owing to this request the Supreme Court on 6th June directed the Himachal Pradesh government to release 137 cusecs of surplus water to Delhi. It also instructed Haryana to facilitate the release through the Wazirabad barrage, making sure that the water reached the Capital soon to reduce the shortage of drinking water.

A vacation bench of Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and KV Viswanathan emphasized the gravity of the situation, calling it as an “existential problem” for Delhi, compounded by excessive heat and rising demand. It stated that as Himachal Pradesh expressed a desire to share 137 cusecs of surplus water with Delhi, Haryana must offer the “right to passage” at the Wazirabad barrage.

“We direct that Himachal Pradesh shall release 137 cusecs from the upstream so that the water reaches the Hathnikund barrage from where it can reach the Wazirabad barrage. As and when surplus water is received by Haryana, Haryana shall facilitate flow of additional water from Hathnikund through Wazirabad uninterruptedly for the citizens of Delhi,” ordered the bench.

Atishi’s repeated plea; Court slamming AAP

The matter was again heard on June 10th, when Delhi’s Water Minister Atishi in her plea again sought immediate and continuous release of water at the Wazirabad barrage, including the surplus provided by Himachal Pradesh. However, the court slammed the AAP government and said that the court proceeding should not be taken for granted.

This was after the court, on June 3rd, had asked the government to rectify defects in a plea seeking a direction to Haryana to release surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh. The court also scheduled an emergency meeting of the Upper Yamuna River Board on June 5th to resolve the water scarcity issue. Representatives from the Centre, Delhi, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh decided to hold a meeting to address the problem.

The AAP government submitted affidavits but failed to cure the noticeable defects as a result of which the court said, “Why have you not cured the defect? We will dismiss the petition. On the last date also this was pointed out and you did not remove the defect. Don’t take the court proceedings for granted, however important your case may be.”

Delhi and its noticeable water network

Delhi relies heavily on its bordering states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to meet around 90% of its drinking water needs. According to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the capital’s supply of unfiltered water is derived from four elementary sources- 40% from the Yamuna, sourced through Haryana, 25% from the Ganga, 22% from the Bhakra Nangal Dam, and the remaining 13% from underneath sources such as wells and tube-wells.

This water is purified at nine water treatment plants (WTPs) and distributed around the city via a 15,473-kilometer pipeline network and underground water reservoirs. According to the DJB’s Summer Bulletin, Delhi’s total water output between May 21 and May 31 ranged between 977.79 and 993.76 million gallons per day (MGD).

Image- Delhi Jal Board

However, this is much lower than the daily demand of 1,290 MGD, or 60 gallons per person. Water quality is also an issue in some locations, with high ammonia levels (more than 2.5 ppm) and hazardous waste from industrial drains polluting the Yamuna. Despite pollution control board scrutiny and interventions by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Yamuna remains one of India’s dirtiest rivers, posing a significant threat to Delhi’s clean water provision.

In the midst of the political blame game, it is terrible to see photographs of women, children, and young men endangering their lives while desperately chasing behind water tankers. What’s more distressing is the disparity in water supply between wealthy communities and slums, with the poor bearing the brunt of the scarcity.

While the wealthy have continual running water in their homes and may afford private water tanks at high prices, the poor do not have this luxury. As a result, poor populations living in unauthorized colonies have to depend on unsafe water sources for their daily needs, which can lead to water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

Inadequate water supply further hinders sanitation, hygiene, and social welfare, leading to increased healthcare costs and illness prevalence. It also disrupts productivity, economic stability, and educational opportunities, affecting individuals and governments.

Why is Delhi struggling for water to this level

Many causes contribute to the continuance of this ever-expanding challenge, including excessive groundwater extraction, water source contamination, migrant population increase, negative effects of climate change, ineffective water management techniques, and inter-state water disputes.

In an effort to close the demand-supply gap, the DJB has gradually increased groundwater extraction during the last five years. According to reports, this extraction increased from 86 MGD in 2020 to over 135 MGD in 2024.

The Central Groundwater Board (CGWB), in its ‘Dynamic Groundwater Resources of India 2023’ report released on December 1, 2023, indicated that around 41.49 percent of Delhi’s territory of 1,487.61 square kilometers is considered “over-exploited” due to excessive levels of groundwater extraction.

The continuous extraction of groundwater exacerbates the depletion of the water table. It should be highlighted that the construction of concrete structures throughout Delhi obstructs natural groundwater recharge zones, creating an alarming imbalance between water recharge and extraction.

Image- Times of India

Notably, the Delhi Master Plan 2041 appropriately recognizes water supply challenges, however, it provides ambiguous policies and lacks specific targets. It fails to lessen dependency on external sources or prioritize rainwater gathering and wastewater reuse. Another critical factor increasing Delhi’s water problem, which is a global phenomenon but is especially acute in highly populated urban areas, is rising temperatures and blistering heat waves. According to the United Nations, every 1°C increase in global temperature is expected to result in a 20% decline in renewable water supplies.

The Yamuna’s pollution levels at the Wazirabad pond have further worsened the situation. Surpassing the permissible ammonia limit in drinking water of 0.5 ppm, according to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the elevated levels have reduced the efficiency of the Wazirabad water treatment plant by approximately 30%, resulting in disruptions in water production and low-pressure water supply. The silt, sand, sediments, weeds, and debris that have collected in the Yamuna’s river bed have an even greater impact on its water quality, flow, and water holding capacity.

Delhi and Haryana’s conflict over water

The most important issue is Delhi’s water-sharing conflict with Haryana. The Delhi administration has frequently chastised the Haryana government for supplying less water than agreed upon in the 1994 MoU. In response, Haryana has asserted that Delhi’s water scarcity is the result of internal mismanagement. Regardless of the legalities, it is apparent that the prolonged political conflict is causing irreparable harm to the population of this country. 

Image- India TV

On May 12, 1994, the Chief Ministers of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to allocate the usable surface flow of the River Yamuna up to the Okhla Barrage between the co-basin states. The MoU seeks the creation of the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB). which is a subordinate office of the Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India.

In a country where people frequently migrate and dwell in other states and Union Territories, governments must avoid politicizing the critical problem of water sharing, as the livelihoods of people from other states, including Haryana, who live in Delhi, are dependent on a consistent and adequate water supply.

Delhi shall stop supporting illegal immigrants with free water, ration

Delhi, being the national capital of a diverse country like India has become home to several migrants who shift from various parts of the country given immense opportunities. While the government cannot and should not differentiate between the locals and the migrants given their national identities, it can allegedly stop serving the illegal immigrants who illegally enter the country and settle in the national capital.

Several reports emerge daily highlighting the increasing influx of illegal inhabitants in Delhi who end up calling the place their ‘home’. According to the 2001 census around 3,084,826 people in India came from Bangladesh. In 2011, there were more illegal Afghanis than Pakistanis living in India. The country-wise list provided pointed out that there were over 13,500 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan and about 7,700 from Pakistan. The highest number of immigrants, 32,600 then were from Bangladesh.

illegal immigrants settling in Delhi (India Today)

Many even today continue to live in the capital city without relevant identity documents or with fake identity documents. There still is an organized migration of roughly 40,000 illegal Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslim immigrants in Delhi, who are considered to pose a national security concern and undermine national cohesion.

These outsiders occupy space in the city, grabbing the share of resources that are meant to be provided to the Delhi locals staying in the miserable conditions. Interestingly, it has been the AAP government in Delhi that has been helping the illegal Rohingyas by distributing free water, electricity, and ration to such inhabitants. The government then also decided to Rohingya Muslims to flats for the economically weaker section (EWS) in the Bakkarwala area in Delhi. However, the Union Home Ministry had denied any such move proposed by the Delhi government merely for vote bank politics.

The Delhi government needs to prioritize its attention toward the locals and stop helping the illegal immigrants with freebies like water, shelter, and ration.

Search for alternate water sources instead of politicizing the matter

According to the United Nations, the right to water entitles everyone to adequate, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and inexpensive water for personal and household use. This is mirrored in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which aims to provide universal access to and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation. Furthermore, judicial precedents have demonstrated the importance of this right.

In addition to the upcoming court verdict, Delhi must make proactive efforts toward self-reliance by implementing sustainable policy and governance reforms such as technological interventions, infrastructure development, and alternative water conservation strategies. Addressing leaks in water distribution pipelines to reduce water waste should be a top concern instead of politicizing the issue and targeting the BJP government. 

The Aam Aadmi Party has, over the past couple of weeks, accused the Haryana government of negative politics and stopping water supply in the Yamuna. The AAP government also needs to look into enhancing the internal supply management which is responsible for providing water to the Delhi locals.

Concurrently, people should accept it as their common obligation to preserve water at home by instilling good water usage habits and actively participating in rainwater harvesting efforts. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Pollution Research, a 60 m² roof in Delhi may gather 3,64,800 liters of water annually for a family of five. This amount of water is enough to meet home needs and to recharge groundwater.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled on June 12th.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani is known for her satirical and factual hand in Economic, Social and Political writing. Having completed her post graduation in Journalism, she is pursuing her Masters in Politics. The author meanwhile is also exploring her hand in analytics and statistics. (Twitter- @sidis28)

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