The ongoing water crisis in Delhi spread to the eastern and northeastern parts of the city on Thursday with the supply from Upper Ganga Canal — a vital source of water to Delhi, apart from the Yamuna — getting disrupted, according to an advisory by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
Water from the Upper Ganga Canal accounts for 26.5% of the daily water needs of the national capital, and feeds two water treatment plants of the DJB, Sonia Vihar and Bhagirathi, which cater to areas in east, and north-east Delhi, and some colonies in south Delhi. According to the DJB advisory, water will be available at low pressure in areas such as Vivek Vihar, Karkardooma, Laxmi Nagar, Shakarpur and Patparganj in east Delhi; Seelampur, Shastri Park, Brahampuri and Gandhinagar in north-east Delhi; and Lodhi Road, Kaka Nagar, Greater Kailash, South Extension and Vasant Kunj in south Delhi.
Several areas in north, central and south Delhi were already facing water supply issues due to low levels of water in the Yamuna as well as higher ammonia content in the river water leading to inadequate treatment and production of water at the Chandrawal and Wazirabad plants. In 2021, the city witnessed 22 ammonia spike episodes spread over 134 days in the Yamuna, during which ammonia levels went above the 1 ppm level — the maximum level at which water can be treated.
DJB treats water at nine plants across Delhi. These facilities are fed raw water mainly through the Yamuna and the Ganga. Yamuna’s water primarily reaches Delhi from Haryana through Munak Canal, Carrier Lined Channel and Delhi Sub-branch canal while the Upper Ganga Canal brings Ganga water to Delhi through Murad Nagar in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district.
Water scarcity in the Capital during the summer months is an annual phenomenon, but the crisis seems to have hit the city early this year.
Every year, the Delhi government complains about the low quantum of water being released by Haryana upstream, as well as presence of industrial pollutants in the raw water coming from the drains of the Panipat industrial area, which leads to high ammonia levels in raw water, disrupting operations at water treatment plants .
Haryana has repeatedly denied these allegations and the state has maintained that the Capital is getting more than its legitimate share of water. While the water supply from the Yamuna fluctuates every few months, disruptions from the Upper Ganga Canal are less frequent — usually when the canal is being repaired or desilting operations are being carried out. Water supply from the canal also gets disrupted during natural disasters and landslides. For instance, in February 2021, Delhi’s supply was hit due to flash floods in Chamoli in Uttarakhand, which led to high turbidity levels in the canal water.
Rajesh Panwar, chairman, Federation of Vasant Kunj RWAs, said that the water supply woes returned to the area on Wednesday. “We are located at the tail-end of the water supply lines coming from Sonia Vihar water treatment plant and we are the first one to be impacted in any crisis. The water reservoir located in the B1 area of Vasant Kunj is not getting replenished due to which the supply to other pockets fed by this reservoir is also getting impacted. Parts of D and B block are affected. We hope the problem is rectified soon,” he added.
Adnan Choudhary, a resident of Laxmi Nagar, said that the water supply was disrupted on Thursday. “How much time will they take to restore water supply? There is no water supply in Ramesh Nagar. This kind of crisis happens usually during peak summer in May and June,” he said.
BS Vohra, who heads the East Delhi RWA joint front, said that the water crisis has hit the city early this year. “We face severe urban flooding in the city during monsoons. Water from external sources are beyond our control so we must think of innovative ways to conserve water. Sustained efforts are required to conserve rainwater in monsoon and divert it to reservoirs. Has government provided any funds in the recent budget to prevent waterlogging and divert this water for storage?” he asked.
Atul Goyal, who heads Urja, an umbrella body of RWAs in Delhi, a water supply crisis in spring is difficult to explain. “Delhi should work on creating a backup water reservoirs and lakes,” he said.
According to officials of the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam, the Upper Ganga Canal was shut around 4pm on March 21 from Haridwa to avoid the deposition of silt due to excess rainfall in upstream areas. “Farmers also don’t need water, as it is harvesting time. So, this has reduced supply by about 50%. We expect the canal to resume operations in a week,” said Unmesh Shukla, executive engineer, UP Jal Nigam, adding the canal is cleaned of silt every year.