Although Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has questioned Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan over the water samples collected from Delhi by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), officials said that there were problems in Delhi's water supply — just not the ones that Paswan had flagged.
In fact, AAP leaders admitted, that when Paswan first flagged the issue, the party leadership felt themselves to be on the back foot. But after media reports suggested that the location of the surveys collected weren't random, AAP has demanded a survey by a "neutral agency" and accused Paswan of "defaming" the Delhi government.
While experts pointed out that randomised samples were the gold standard in scientific studies, an AAP leader told News18, "We were initially worried. Because even if one per cent of the city is getting dirty water...that is a huge number. But as it turns out, this was not the case."
Meanwhile, the prime issue concerning water, said officials of the Delhi Jal Board, wasn't quality, but quantity.
Simply put, Delhi is running out of water. Today, more than half of the capital's water requirement is met from other states, while its water table is rapidly shrinking. The 2018-19 economic survey put Delhi's projected demand for water at 1140 million gallons per day, and it's supply at 935 million gallons per day a shortfall of 18 per cent.
This paucity of water has a direct impact on water quality. An official of the DJB explained, "If you look at the complaints of contamination that we receive, it is almost always related to the sewerage system and made worse by a whole bunch of houses switching on their booster pumps at the same time."
The official explained that if there is a "localised contamination" due to ongoing work or any other reason, "there is also lateral movement of the dirty water". "What this means is that the dirty water in a sewer line could move laterally into the adjacent tap water line. When the booster pumps are switched on, this dirty water is also sucked out," said the official.
*The official cited a common problem that the DJB faces, particularly in markets like at Defence Colony, Lajpat Nagar and Safdarjung Development Area. A side-effect of the mixed land being regularised is an increase in the frequency of localised sewer getting clogged. "If you have a juice seller who throws the entire pulp into the sewer, then the sewer will get blocked and the water will start filing and rising to the top. Also, these aren't concrete, waterproof structures. So there will be some lateral movement." At that point, even if five houses were to switch on the booster pump at the same time, there would be contamination, the official said.
*In Paharganj, another area where the DJB commonly faces problems, the official said that the proliferation of hotels, many of which have unauthorised water connection, had completely perforated the waterline. "As a result, we often get cases of contamination due to the unauthorised water connections that have damaged the pipeline," said a DJB source.
*Delhi has a total network of 13,000 kilometres of pipes, most of it is mapped. But in areas like Delhi 6, much of the water pipeline is unmapped. "Earlier, the MLAs would get pipes installed just before an election from their funds. And those aren't mapped at all." This proves a headache for the DJB in terms of ensuring water quality, said officials.
In the past few months, the Delhi government has cleared a series of projects aimed at reviving lakes, improving the green cover and groundwater levels in south Delhi. These include a plan to completely revive four dry lakes, the creation of a wetland near Timarpur, and laying infrastructure that would carry treated wastewater from Okhla to Bhatti Mines for groundwater recharge.