Above: The Delhi Jal Board has asked that the level in Wazirabad reservoir should not be reduced/Photo: mapio.net
As the long “lean season” till the arrival of the monsoon begins, the Delhi Jal Board wants the Delhi High Court to direct the centre to supervise water supply from Haryana to the national capital
By Vipin Pubby in Chandigarh
It is that time of the year when temperatures in the northern parts of India see a sudden and sharp rise. It is also the time when there is a corresponding rise in the political temperatures between the Haryana and Delhi governments over the supply of potable water to the national capital. Allegations and counter-allegations fly thick and fast about untreated water, leakage from canals and quantum of water supply despite agreements signed and sealed detailing sharing of waters from various sources.
In the latest move, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), in charge of supplying water to the denizens of the capital, pleaded before the Delhi High Court that the central government be asked to supervise water supply from Haryana to Delhi. While arguing against any reduction in the water level of the Wazirabad reservoir, the DJB painted an alarming picture. It said that the areas which would be affected by the water crisis include large parts of Lutyens’ Delhi, home to VVIPs, including the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the prime minister’s residence, the bungalows of the Supreme Court and High Court judges as well as central ministers.
The DJB pleaded that “an imminent water crisis is likely to hit the New Delhi area in the next few weeks owing to the failure of state of Haryana to supply water as required pursuant to orders of the Supreme Court”. It contended that the issue of water supply assumed importance in the 100-day-long lean season till the arrival of the monsoon and Haryana ought to strictly comply with the Supreme Court’s directive to keep the Wazirabad reservoir full during this period.
The Haryana government has, however, informed the High Court that Delhi was “wasting around 300 cusecs of water due to leakage and pilferage and the amount of wastage would be more if the availability from other sources were added”. In its affidavit filed before the division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anup J Bhambhani, the state argued that the national capital was “discharging substantial quantity of water to the downstream of Wazirabad causing huge loss of precious water” and added that “despite this, the state of Haryana constantly maintained supply to Delhi”.
The state went on to say that in the October-December period “when there is enough water regeneration in river Yamuna, the Delhi Jal Board is discharging a huge quantity of water in the downstream of Wazirabad, which is huge waste of priceless water”. It underlined that as per the “economic survey of Delhi for the year 2017-18, it is categorically mentioned that the loss of treated water due to leakage and pilferage is 30 percent. That means around 300 cusecs of water supplied by Haryana to Delhi is being wasted by Delhi due to leakage and pilferage”.
The DJB had earlier filed an application in the High Court alleging that Haryana was not allowing passage of clean water into the Yamuna, making the water meant for the national capital more polluted, and had pointed out that it would lead to a massive water problem in central Delhi. It had said that the channel which supplies additional water to the Yamuna to dilute its pollution levels “had been blocked by Haryana”, and that the water being received at Wazirabad was unusable for treatment as it had high levels of ammonia.
The application further said that the water treated at Wazirabad is supplied to central Delhi where all major government offices, bungalows and the Supreme Court and the High Court are located. It had pleaded that if Haryana cannot control the pollutants being discharged into the river, then it should increase the clean water being supplied into the Yamuna to dilute the pollution.
It said that Haryana had blocked the DD-8 channel and had pointed out that obstructing any water channel attracted provisions under Section 431 of the IPC, which lays down the punishment—a maximum jail term of five years—for making any road, bridge or river impassable or unnavigable. It also argued that blocking of the DD-8 channel violated the orders of the Supreme Court, to ensure the Wazirabad reservoir is always kept full of water.
Under an MoU signed on May 12, 1994, by the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi in the presence of then Union minister for water resources in the government of PV Narasimha Rao, the partner states had agreed on their share of Yamuna water. It was agreed that the allocation of water among beneficiary states will be regulated by the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) within the overall framework of the agreement.
However, the Delhi and Haryana governments have remained at loggerheads over the issue of sharing water for a long time. Delhi has been demanding more water in view of its increasing population and the consequent increase in demand. Haryana, on the other hand, has been citing its own needs and has been telling the courts that it cannot supply more water to Delhi.
There was also an acrimonious exchange when Delhi’s ruling party, the Aam Aadmi Party, had taken a public stand in favour of Punjab and against Haryana on the water dispute between the two states during the run-up to the assembly elections in Punjab in 2017. AAP had then contested the assembly polls in the state and was even hopeful of forming the government. However, it finished a poor second to the Congress. Later, some Haryana ministers had said that the state would stop supply of Satlej water through its network of canals to Delhi.
In another case filed in the Supreme Court to demand that Haryana be directed to release more Yamuna water to Delhi, the top court had asked why it should pass only Delhi-centric orders. “The concept of water conservation must be followed instead of demanding it from the neighbouring state,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta told the Delhi government in December last year. While referring to the explosive population growth of Delhi, the Court said, “The answer to this is water conservation and not water generation.”