All is not well in Delhi. While air pollution has become a mighty concern for all in the last few years, water crisis is one issue that has even resulted in a pitched battle among groups, and the killing of a few people. A glimpse of this can be seen daily in Delhi’s Sangam Vihar area that has even witnessed gang wars — all for the sake of water.
On June 15, the brother of a BJP councillor was shot dead in Sangam Vihar area by his neighbour when a dispute over water turned violent. The incident happened when councillor Subhash Bhadana’s brother Krishan Bhadana and his family got into an altercation with their neighbours Babli and his family. Police said Babli and his family attacked the Bhadanas with bricks. The fight didn’t stop there as Babli called his associates and opened fire at the Bhadanas – injuring Krishan and his son Manish. While Krishan died in the hospital the next day, Babli was also injured and admitted to a hospital.
Sangam Vihar is one of the largest unauthorised colonies in Delhi and home to over 1.5 million residents. But the Delhi government has failed to provide piped drinking water to the people living in this area. The crisis of water has made Sangam Vihar a criminal abode, leading to the rise of gangs that even kill in the name of water.
On a visit to the area on any summer day, one can see widespread use of private tankers. Houses and narrow lanes are filled with small tanks to store water. A private water tanker often charges from Rs 500 to Rs 2000, as per the demand.
Hindustan Times quoted police as saying on Sunday that several criminal gangs started as water mafia and later moved on to other crimes. Some of the big gangsters dominating water distribution in this part of South Delhi include Deepak Pandit, Ravi Gangwal and Rohit Chaudhary, as per police files. There is also one Basiran – a 62-year-old woman, and her seven sons who have been jailed for over 100 crimes. According to the HT report, Basiran’s family controlled three government borewells until recently.
Like Sangam Vihar, there are several other colonies facing water crisis, including Khanpur, Devli, Neb Serai, Jaitpur, Okhla and Tughlaqabad. People in some areas like Greater Kailash Part II, Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Baljeet Nagar, Karol Bagh’s Western Extension Area (WEA) have recently complained of getting getting dirty water in their taps.
In March this year, a 60-year-old man was killed over an argument over a bucket of water in SS Nagar in Wazirpur Industrial Area. When the killing took place, around 1000 residents of the area were dependent on a single water tanker for the past three months.
More water wars ahead?
The groundwater in Delhi has declined dangerously. Even the President’s Estate has very low groundwater level. While authorities in the national capital have apparently failed to realise the gravity of the situation, the Supreme Court warned last month that the critical decline in groundwater level could lead to “water war” in the capital.
“What are we doing? We are not in a position to give water to our President. We can’t give water to Birla Madir. The situation (of groundwater level) is over exploited and very critical all over Delhi,” the Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta had said.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar told the apex court that the groundwater situation was “critical” in almost 90 per cent area of Delhi. “We are in a deep rooted trouble. What to do, we are short of water. Can anybody live without water? I don’t think anybody is realising the seriousness of the situation,” the SC bench observed. Not just this, when Additional Solicitor General N.S. Nadkarni, who appeared for the Centre, said the “next world war would be on water”, the SC replied: “Forget about world war, Delhi war is going to start soon (on water issue).”
The Delhi Jal Board distributes around 900 MGD of water in the national capital. Its gets 543 MGD from haryana and 240 MGD from UP via Upper Ganga Canal.
The water situation is grave in several parts of the country beyond Delhi. In the recently released Composite Water Management Index, the NITI Aayog painted a very scary future
“India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual around 6% loss in the country’s GDP,” NITI Aayog said.