Ancient scriptures describe India as the fertile land crisscrossed by numerous overflowing rivers. Add to this the perennial lakes and numerous streams and it is not difficult to infer why this country has been home to some of the oldest and richest civilizations known to mankind. It is a matter of great concern that a country with such abundant resources is now battling an acute water shortage. Drinking water scarcity, in particular, is one of the greatest challenges faced by the people of India.
News reports from September 2017 say that about 76 million Indians (out of a population of 1.32 billion) lack access to safe drinking water. Despite such alarming statistics, the Indian government and the people of the country are yet to wake up to the reality of this silent crisis. Wastage, pollution, lack of conservation, and a poor storage and distribution infrastructure are sapping away the freshwater resources of the country. “Clean, safe drinking water is scarce. Yet, we take it for granted and waste it”, says WaterAid the well-known international NGO working towards providing safe water and sanitation to the people. What is all the more disconcerting is that urban centres are also now being greatly affected. One of the fallouts of this translates into the hike in water tariff ordered by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB)
DJB Hikes Water Tariff
The Delhi Jal Board has announced a tariff hike – the first such move in three years since the Aam Admi Party came to power. Water consumption by families consuming over 20,000 litres per month will now be required to pay INR 28 per litre extra each month. The tariff for consumption of water less than 20,000 litres remains unchanged, though. “No change in water tariff in Delhi for households using up to 20,000 litres per month for the third consecutive year. (For consumption) above 20,000 litres, a 20 percent combined hike on water and sewer charges approved in Delhi Jal Board meeting,” said the DJB spokesperson. This hike in tariff will come into effect from 1 February 2018.
The decision was taken by the DJB to tackle the huge losses it has incurred over the past couple of years, suggest news reports. The board has faced a loss of revenue amounting to INR 516 crore in 2016-17 and in the fiscal year before that, the losses were pegged at INR 209 crore. While the AAP-led government remains committed to providing free water (up to 20,000 litres) for domestic use, the very sustainability of the board is now in question and the tariff hike has become imperative. With the implementation of this hike, the people of the capital city are likely to bear an additional burden of INR 500-600 crore.
Water Conservation in Cities
Rural India and the urban centres of the country are plagued by very different water scarcity problems. Most villages suffer from a shortage of clean water and the falling water table, the drying up of rivers, streams, and aquifers can be blamed on untenable agricultural practices, increase in industrialization in these parts, and in changing environmental factors. Indian cities, on the other hand, have become centres of massive pollution and wastage, thus rendering available water sources unsuitable for consumption.
Increase or hike in water tariff may indeed go a long way in discouraging wasteful use of water but for a holistic approach, there are a number of water conservation and methods that must be implemented by the people themselves –
- Rain Water Harvesting – The importance of rainwater harvesting cannot be stressed enough. Small communities, apartment complexes and even individual households can make use of rainwater harvesting kits to store and use the water from rains to fuel domestic use.
- Water Efficient Landscaping – Grass lawns are pretty but they are also water guzzlers. Grass lawns require approximately 165 litres of water per square foot each year. Water efficient landscaping techniques can be adopted to bring down the garden’s water consumption by up to 70 percent.
- Use of Pressure Reducing Valves – Use of pressure reducing valves in taps reduces the water pressure also reducing wastage of water in households. Use of these valves in outlets requiring less pressure is a great way to save water in homes.
- Large Scale Water Recycling Projects – It is high time civic authorities and municipal corporations of the country start to set up large-scale water recycling projects in cities. This may be the key to sustainable water management in times to come.