No water in this locality on World Water Day

Even after 75 years of Independence, collection of drinking water is a big challenge for a neighbourhood in Vasant Vihar

LOAD: Women have to ensure that they store water for at least a couple of days

Even as the world was celebrating ‘World Water Day’ on Wednesday, March 22, Shakuntala Devi was busy filling water cans from tankers in Kusumpur Pahari, a locality in Vasant Vihar.

The 55-year-old was storing water for the next 2-3 days just as she has been doing for the last few decades.

Bana lo video, modi or kejriwal tak pahucha dena, kya haal kar rakha hai [hamara] (make a video and send it to Modi (PM) and Kejriwal (CM), look at our condition),” she reacted angrily.

The United Nation has warned that billions of people will face water shortage in the coming decades as climate change, changing agricultural practices will strain water supplies like never before. Cities will experience the most scarcity.

DELAYED: Shakuntala Devi expresses anger over irregular water tanker schedule

In 2016, as many as 933 million people in cities faced water scarcity. By 2050, that number is forecast to hit 2.4 billion, with India the most affected, the UN’s annual World Water Development report stated on Wednesday.

Though water tankers visit the Kusumpur Pahari area, residents allege that they reach two to three days after booking and the driver takes 100 rupees per tanker. Otherwise, he fails to turn up and they have to wait for the tanker for longer periods.

FALSE PROMISES: Although water tank has been installed in the area, water supply has not started yet

Some of the residents even kept their cans chained as they filled them up from tankers of Delhi Jal Board.

Shakuntala, who has been living here for 40-45 years told Patriot, “We are highly disturbed. Even though our life is coming to an end, water problem remains. Even children have to fill water. Bachche pani bhare ya majdoori karen, Main to beemar bhi rehne lagi (Should children spend time filling water or do labour, I have started to keep ill).”

Other women, collecting water from the tanker, were also angry at the government.

HUGE PROBLEM: Bylanes in Kusumpur Pahadi are full of empty water cans

Kavita, 32, lives in the locality with her husband and three children. Her husband is a labourer.

“We have been drinking contaminated (bore) water for the last three days. Tankers visit every 3-4 days and we have to go to the jal board office in Vasant Vihar and book them first. Even nearby camps (temporary) have water facility, but not these. Even our children have to take school leave for collecting water,” she told Patriot, after filling a can.

The scene was the same in a narrow lane some distance away. Women were carrying water cans on the bicycle and in their hands.

PRICE: Locals have to pay Rs 100 for the tanker as a bribe

Pooja, who hails from Haryana’s Jind district, has been living here with her husband and children for around a decade.

She told Patriot, “Here water is everything. To collect it, we had to leave our essential work too. Kaam chhodo to pani milta hai aur pani mile to kaam choot-ta hai (You get water only if you leave work, and if you get water then you have to leave work). Even today I was having lunch when a tanker arrived. I had to leave my lunch and go to collect water first. Also, we use it very carefully. This problem has increased over the last two months.

“Two days ago, we (women) went to the DJB office at 6:30 am and booked our tanker. The tanker came only today. Our number was fourteenth, that day. This process is expensive too, our up-down auto cost comes to 200 and the tanker driver takes a bribe of 100 rupees per tanker. Even if there is marriage or other function, it is necessary to invite the driver to the function. Otherwise, he does not bring a water tanker. We carry a 60-70 litre water can. Is it women’s work?” she asked.

Another woman angrily exclaimed, “The water supply of the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA)’s home should be suspended for two months. Then, he will feel our problem. He would send multiple tankers during elections but it takes days for one to arrive. Ab taras rahe hain (We are struggling now).”

The UN report said that water consumption has increased about 1% annually and that the trend will continue, with the world projected to use about 25% more water in 2050 than it does today. Water scarcity has become endemic due to overconsumption and pollution, with global warming expected to increase seasonal shortages.

Saddam Hussain, 27, narrates a similar story. He runs a hair salon in the locality and lives in a rented house. The ground floor is dedicated to his salon and the upper floor is for residence.

His father came to Delhi around half a century ago from Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, and lives nearby. Despite kidney stone problems, Saddam manages carries big cans of water.

“Life of a person has been affected due to water crisis. You can’t go out for your job. In 2019, a water system was installed here, but water supply has not started there yet,” he said, indicating towards a tanki (tank) near his salon.

“There is a lot of politics in it too. Some person from here advised a politician that if you solve this problem, then you would not get a vote in the election. A tanker provides water to 20 families. The tanker is registered in the name of only one person, who exploits others and illegally charges 20 rupees. Jiski lathi uski bhains wala system hai (Whoever wields power controls everything).”

IN A ROUTINE: Jaibhagwan, who works as a housekeeper, carries a water can

Jai Bhagwan, 45, who is working as a housekeeper, was carrying a water can on a bicycle. He complained that most of the children here have stomach problems due to lifting big water cans.

Government reaction

On the allegations of bribe and water crisis, Patriot talked to local MLA Naresh Yadav.

He said, “Actually, the contract [for water supply through tankers] ended two months ago, so this problem has arisen. We will try to resolve it and hopefully, it will be solved soon. And if there is a problem of bribes, either you tell me or tell the locals about who the person taking bribes. We will take action against him.”

According to the United Nations website, World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year to highlight the importance of water and raise awareness about the global water crisis.

The idea behind celebrating the day is to ‘support the achievement of sustainable development goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030’.

Muhammad Tahir
+ posts