A perennial river that does not flow is no river. This is because flow enables a river to fulfil its various ecological functions of which completion of the water and nutrient cycles; maintenance of aquatic and riparian flora and fauna and recharge of ground water through aquifer action is the most evident and critical. The recharged ground water also helps meet a number of human dependencies like irrigation and drinking water supplies.
It is indeed a historic day in Indian politics and governance as AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal took oath at Ramlila Ground today(December 28, 2013). It gives and amazing, thrilling feeling and has filled us with joy and hope. It is indeed likely to change the politics of India in fundamental ways. Salutes to all those who made this possible.
As well wishers we are unable to avoid the temptation of writing to AAP about some of the things they can be done in whatever little time that they may be allowed to govern in Delhi.
1. Democratise governance of DJB Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is one of the most non-transparent, non participatory, unaccountable bodies. Longer term agenda would need to institutionalize bottom up democracy in its functioning from mohalla sabha level to the top. In the mean time, you can tame some immediate steps to ensure that there is immediate independent oversight and participation of the Board. The steps suggested in AAP manifesto like putting daily readings of bulk water meters at each step are certainly welcome, but more steps are required in this line regarding the governance of the Board.
2. Stop Supply side projects Delhi as a city is privileged place. As even planning commission has noted, Delhi gets more per capita water than Amsterdam, Paris, Bonn or most other European cities. The amount of water that Delhi gets is sufficient to provide for necessary needs of today and even for all future times. Delhi should not be asking for any more water from new dam projects like the Renuka, Lakhwar and other dams. To move in that direction, DJB can be asked to prepare a plan for next 20 years (as a first step) assuming Delhi wont get any more water than it currently gets. As you are well aware, there will be several components of this plan including: A. Rainwater harvesting B. Plugging leaks C. Instituting Water Audits D. Putting in place functioning water meters at each junction E. Adequate treatment of wastewater F. Reuse and recycle of waste water G. avoiding unnecessary water intensive activities H. Protecting local water bodies I. Ensuring sustainability of flood plains, Ridge and other such ecological spaces J. Ensuring protection of catchments.
Some of these are elaborated below and all of them can be effectively achieved only with democratic water governance.
DJB should also be asked to get out of the commitment for resources for Renuka and other upstream projects and also need for such projects.
3. Rainwater harvesting Ask DJB to prepare time bound plan to ensure that there are functioning rainwater harvesting and use/ recharge systems in place at: All government buildings, all colleges, all schools, all institutions, all metros, all railway stations, all flyovers, all (over-ground) metro lines, all parks, all malls, all multiplexes, all commercial buildings. Many of the storm water drains can also be used for recharging groundwater where appropriate. This should be time bound and consequences to follow after a reasonable time limit say one year. There should be some credible way of ensuring that these function.
4. Sewage Treatment PlantsDelhi has India’s largest installed capacity of STPs, but none are functioning as per the design in terms of quantity or quality of outputs. Put in place credible governance for these to ensure that they function and make specific officers responsible for these and mechanisms to ensure they face consequences when these STPs do not function. Each plant can immediately have a monitoring committee including AAP or local MLA, media persons, civil society persons and RWA persons.
5. Decentralisedsewage capacities Where necessary and possible, put in place decentralized STPs using less resources and more environment friendly methods in a time bound manner. All large establishments in any case should have their own STPs and water recycle plans. Additional STP capacity should preferably be decentralized one. DJB should be asked to prepare norms and plans for these.
6. Sewage reuse plans DJB should be asked to prepare a credible sewage reuse and recycle plans so that there is less pressure on fresh water supply and more recycled sewage is used to meet non potable use in the city.
In addition to the DJB the three wings of the MCD must also in tune with the DMC Act 1957 be re-vested with roles and responsibilities for an efficient sewerage system and management in the city.
7. Drainage system A functioning drainage system and their maintenance is key part of urban water system and it is good that AAP manifesto has included this. DJB should be ask to put their plan on this in public domain along with the maintenance system and those responsible for it. Connect this too to Mohalla Sabha.
8. Groundwater governance It is well known that Delhi is over using groundwater, 2004 estimates show that this was 70% above the recharge then. The governance of groundwater use is under DJB and this needs to be democratized and only at RWA, mohalla or ward level can there be proper governance, which needs to be put in place urgently, along with more recharge systems. Ask DJB to prepare a ground water map of Delhi along with aquifer map (over longer term) and use it to integrate rainwater harvesting, local water sources and Delhi water supply.
9. 700 lphd free water Equity in water distribution remains a serious issue in the city. On the AAP promise to provide free water to those that are going to use less than 700 litres water per household (or less than 140 lpcd), while intentions of helping ensure those who are using minimum water is good, there are a large number of question marks. We sincerely hope this does not translate into clamour for more water for Delhi from outside sources. Secondly, we hope this does not lead to wastage of water, which would actually mean less water available for those who do not have. This also hinges on functioning household level water meters. Moreover, 140 lpcd may be the norm, at least 50 lpcd would be guaranteed with credible enforcement mechanism. Even this 50 lpcd can be provided at minimum token price of Rs 1 per KL. Those who use higher quantity should be asked to pay for the full water use with some subsidy and those who use more than 140 lpcd should be asked to pay higher than cost price so that there is some revenue generation for cross subsidization for the poor. Water price should include the full sewage treatment cost. Incentivising local treatment and reuse is an excellent idea in AAP manifesto.
10. Investigate Munak stalemate We have noticed that AAP manifesto talks about ensuring that Delhi gets is water share from Munak based on the money spent. However, one of the reasons Delhi is not getting that water is that Delhi did not enter into an agreement with Haryana before agreeing to provide money for the Munak project. It needs to be investigated why did Delhi agree to spend money on Munak before entering into such legal agreement. AAP govt may consider instituting such an investigation.
11. Yamuna river There is a lot that is required to be done for the Yamuna river, some of which has been highlighted in the AAP manifesto as well. Some of the steps listed above could help the cause of the river. Some of the addition steps should include: a) Demarcate Yamuna flood plain to ensure there is no more encroachment of the same; b) some of the current encroachments can be asked to vacate the flood plain in time bound manner; c) ensure there is some releases of water from Hathnikund and Wazirabad barrages immediately, ask for a long term plan for the river assuming there will be no more dams in the upstream.
12. Transparency about and reversal of agreements with Degremont, Veolia and other private companies The agreement that DJB has entered into with various private companies on Sonia Vihar, Rithala and other projects and the three water supply zones should be put in public domain and ways found to reverse them where possible.
We know Mr Kejriwal and lot of others at AAP would be familiar with a lot of this since Mr Kejriwal led the successful campaign against water privatisation in Delhi in 2005, and we hope credible steps would be taken up in these directions as soon as possible.