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"People will start conserving water only when we increase metering efficiency and make the tariff dynamic"

Apr 13, 2012

In an exclusive interview with OneWorld South Asia, Ramesh Negi, Chief Executive Officer, Delhi Jal Board, talks about the inadequate and irregular water supply problems faced by citizens of Delhi; and recent national projects that aim at solving most of such issues.

OWSA: What are the reasons for water scarcity in Delhi?

Ramesh Negi: The current water situation is due to two factors. First, Delhi doesn’t have its own water, and is dependent on adjacent states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for its water supply. Second, Delhi’s population is growing rapidly. Migration rates are still high in Delhi. The amount of water we have in Delhi is because of Yamuna agreement (1994) with different states. In this sense, Delhi is receiving the same amount of water which was allocated in 1994 but the population has grown by 70 to 80 per cent.


OW: So what is Delhi Jal Board (DJB) doing to ensure more availability of water in the city?

RN: We are constructing upstorage dams on Yamuna because there isn’t any upstorage facility available on Yamuna. Delhi government has allocated funds to Himachal Pradesh government for land acquisition of Renuka Dam. At the same time, Lakhwar Vyasi Dam should also come up. All these are national projects which will be executed by the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.

OW: You just spoke about Yamuna, but what about the contamination in the 22 kilometer stretch of the river and what is DJB doing about it?

RN:  I agree that the 22 kilometer stretch of Yamuna in Delhi, which spans from Wazirabad to Okhla, is highly polluted. The reason behind this is that only 55 per cent of Delhi’s population lives with sewerage facilities. We also know that only 50 per cent of the Delhi is regularised and planned. There are 1600 un-authorised colonies;  around 3 million people are living in slums and resettlement colonies. Effluents released by unauthorised colonies, diaries and industries goes to the Yamuna. Absence of sewerage system, ETPs (Effluent treatment plants), unauthorised colonies, dairies and industries make the situation complex and increase the problem. The whole lot of waste reaches Yamuna.

Now, Delhi produces 600 million gallons sewer in a day but we are able to treat only 350 MGDs. We have the capacity of treating 500 MGDs sewer. There are a number of plans and policies in place to rehabilitate the sewage system. We are confident that the quality of water in Yamuna will improve by 2015.

In terms of a long term strategy, we have prepared a sewer master plan. In coming 15 years, we would be able to provide 100 per cent sewage facilities to the people of Delhi under this master plan.

OW: What is DJB doing to ensure efficient management of water?

RN: There are two ways of ensuring efficient management of water; one by the executive i.e. Delhi Jal Board, second by the people. We are able to provide piped water to 65 per cent of Delhi's population. Rest of them are getting water from tankers and bore wells. So, there is an evident inequality in distribution too.

For more efficiency, we are moving towards Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) in operations and maintenance. Tariff will remain in the hands of government. And we want the private partners to bring in new techniques and efficiency.

Another important aspect is that, people will start conserving water only when we increase metering efficiency and make the tariff dynamic. Almost after five years, we have made the tariff dynamic. We believe if people know the amount of water they consume then they will save more; and this can be achieved by accurate metering.

At the same time, we have introduced a new concept of ‘Water Magistrate’. We have appointed three water magistrates in consultation with the High Court. They keep a check on the wastage of water and register complaints on the recommendations of the RWAs. We are trying to engage better with communities in terms of water consumption and wastage.

In the end, the attitude of people towards water also matters. The scarcity of water is a lifestyle issue. Lifestyle matters a lot and if we are not going to change it then we would not get sufficient water.

OW: What is the government doing to promote Rain Water Harvesting?

RN: Government has 2-3 initiatives; one is a legal initiative. Laws of Municipal Corporation makes it mandatory for buildings to have water harvesting. Moreover, under pollution norms it is mandatory for commercial and government buildings to construct water harvested campus. This is being followed in most of the newly constructed buildings.

At the same time, we also have a scheme for individuals, RWAs and NGOs where we provide an investment subsidy of Rs 1 lakh to promote rain water harvesting.

OW: Could you please share success stories where people have taken initiatives to save water?

RN: Many people have installed equipments that stop booster and disconnect water supply when their tanks are full. Most problems regarding water contamination are associated with the booster. We promote such good practices which help in the conservation of water. We are hopeful that in the future people will use water efficiently and wisely.

Delhi Jal Board, is a statutory body of the Government of India and is responsible for the production and distribution of potable water across the city.

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