Acute scarcity of potable water in Delhi was mentioned in our Journal for the period April June, 2006. The article highlighted the actions which should be taken up by the Union of India and Government of NCT of Delhi for providing reasonable quantity of drinking water to the citizens. The matter has also been addressed to the Union Home Minister ( Mr. Shivraj Patil) and MOS, Urban Development Ministry (Mr. Ajay Maken). These letters dated March 14, are reproduced below:

Dear Patil Saheb,

I enclose for your information copy of the letter I have written to Sri Ajay Maken, Minister for Urban Development. I invite your special attention to the second part of the letter that deals with the great shortage of drinking water the people of Delhi are facing year after year with no apparent action on the part of the central government and Delhi government. Year after year, the Jal Board adds water tankers glibly publishing telephone numbers to call up emergency supply. The supply may or may not reach, it may be inordinately delayed and when it does arrive after a long wait, more often than not a small quantity is supplied and its cost `demanded' although it is supposed to be free.

With all its accumulated problems and large debts as well as deficits, the central government has approved the creation of the Delhi Jal Board. Dependent as it is on the water received largely from Haryana and to a small extent from U.P., the Board, with a highly defective distribution system and the alarming leakage and pilferage estimated at about 40% of the total availability, has been unable to improve matters for two particular reasons; firstly, it is unable to charge the economic cost of water from the consumers with its own background of inefficient working, lack of supply to large areas of Delhi and complete lack of credibility on account of seeming inaction. Secondly, almost all the blame has been put on the absence of the supply of water from the Tehri dam. I suppose, that even with its political inhibitions the central government will take some proactive steps to compel the U.P. government to comply with the agreement to supply 300 cusecs of water from the Tehri Dam immediately. Unless such action is visible to the people, much of the blame will in all fairness lie on the central government.

In the crisis situation about water that the people of Delhi are facing, COMMON CAUSE requests you as in overall charge of the Union Territory of Delhi, to take the initiative without losing further time by directing the Delhi government to give the highest priority to eliminating the reported 40 per cent loss of water from the distribution system.

In my letter to Sri Ajay Maken I have suggested the creating of four to six Task Forces each preferably under an army engineer with a specified target for dealing with the problem. The Task Forces may also take up the more obvious defects in the distribution system. COMMON CAUSE is convinced that it is only such determined action that will reassure the people of Delhi that the government means business.

With my kind regards,

P.K. Dave

Letter dated 14 th March, 2006 addressed to Mr. Ajay Maken, Union Minister of Urban Development, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi.

Dear Shri Maken,

To begin with, please accept my congratulations on your appointment to the National Cabinet. In my view, it is not only recognition of merit and of the services you have rendered in the national domain, and appropriately, it also signifies the increasing role of youth in the country's polity. Your appointment to the very important portfolio of Works & Housing with all the controversy that surrounds it is also a great compliment.

I am writing on behalf of COMMON CAUSE, a society for dealing with the problems and grievances of the common people. This society was run virtually single-handed by the legendary Sri H. D. Shourie for 25 years and in that period he brought relief to large numbers of people including thousands of government servants. He passed away last year at the age of 93 and was occupied till the very end in dealing with people's problems. I have taken over temporarily as the Chief Executive. In this brief letter, I wish to draw your attention to two very pressing problems that are causing great concern to the people of Union Territory of Delhi. These are, firstly, the imminent publication of the Master Plan 2021. COMMON CAUSE has been making suggestions about the draft plan for a number of months now. I was quite struck by your last statement about the Master Plan in its impact on the people. However, the presumption that the Committee appointed for the purpose of taking public concerns and expert opinions into account will be able to take the interests of the 140 million people of Delhi and put them specifically in the Statutorily enforceable Plan, would in my opinion be far-fetched.

COMMON CAUSE has been urging for several months that the involvement of people in the implementation of the Master Plan is a very important aspect and that the absence of such a provision in the previous Master Plan was a serious lacuna that caused many difficulties. COMMON CAUSE has been demanding that in decisions that affect the people generally, or residents of any particular locality or colony, the people should be fully involved .For permitting multi-storey construction, for example, where the load on infrastructural services, water, sewerage, traffic congestion and parking must be taken into account, there has been a permissive tendency for municipal staff to go to the extent of filing affidavits in the superior courts that all infrastructural services have been taken care of. Experience of the local residents is to the contrary. It should be mandatory for all such proposals to be made known to the Society, the Welfare Association and the residents generally, so that objections could be filed before a designated authority, before sanction is granted and work starts at the site. Nor should any part of the proposedl construction be sold and possession handed over, until a regular Completion Certificate is issued and the residents' society or association informed of the fact formally. In the existing shortage of water and sewerage facilities, it may also be proper to give new connections for water and sewerage only after the completion certificates have been issued and the representatives' Association duly informed. Unless this involvement of the local residents is assured in the Master Plan itself, the illegal constructions with the connivance of the municipal and police authorities cannot be stopped.

The second problem even of greater urgency, is the extremely serious situation that the people of Delhi are facing with regard to the supply of drinking water. As far as I can see, the government of Delhi and the Ministry in charge of water are both going round and round the problem. Having spent nearly 700 crore on the Sonia Vihar water treatment plant that has become a white elephant for the Delhi government until the waters from the Tehri Dam about to be completed over the Ganga river, are made available by the U.P. government.

The fact is that this excuse has been offered by the Delhi government for the last three years, and apart from appealing to the U.P. government and the Central Water Ministry, no purposeful action has been taken either to redistribute the available water equitably, or to deal with the reported 40% leakage and theft of water that has been going on for long. I do think that the Central government should have been more sympathetic and proactive towards the great distress that the people of Delhi have been facing year after year. It is the Central government's responsibility to ensure that the agreement under which a certain quantum of water was allocated for drinking purposes to Delhi from the Tehri Dam, should be compulsorily released by the U.P. government. Failure to do so should be considered an evasion of responsibility that should be noted by the Parliament and the people of Delhi. Despite the fact that the sharing of river waters between States is provided for in the Constitution, the Central government has sufficient powers under the Constitution to direct a State to comply with an agreement duly entered into whether it was by the existing party in power in the State or earlier. The Supreme Court has also ruled that drinking water is not only a fundamental right of the people, but it must have first priority in the distribution of the available quantity of river waters.

Be that as it may, the immediate problem to my mind is that of dealing with the great loss of water through leakage and pilferage. As the summer is already upon us, the problem has to be dealt with, with the utmost urgency. I suggest for your consideration that a direction should be issued to the Delhi government that it may form 4-6 Task Forces (preferably headed by serving army officers from the Engineer Corps), each with a compliment of technicians and with magisterial backing and police support where necessary, to stop leakage and pilferage within a specified period. The expenditure on these task forces should be met by the Delhi government or, granted as a recoverable loan. Considering the great distress that the people of several localities are facing in Delhi, both the Central government and the Delhi government should give this scheme the highest priority.

May be, that your Ministry is not concerned with the water problems of Delhi. For that reason I am sending a copy of this letter to the Union Home Minister who is in overall charge of the Delhi Union Territory.

With kind regards,

July-September 2006