Water Board India: No Water Crisis, only 3.5 million people have serious shortage
In a slum in Vasant Kunj (India), a young woman, Fatima, keeps her entire week’s supply in five 50-litre plastic containers lined up next to her bed.
They take up a third of the 3.5-metre metal box where she, her husband and child live. There is only one way for her to get water: she must walk to the neighbourhood spigot with heavy cannes, before filling them up and lugging them home.
“Sometimes only one water tanker comes, sometimes they come after a day’s gap,” says Fatima, who uses only one name. “We are poor people. If we sit and wait like this for a whole day for the water tanker, when will we go out to earn our daily wage?”
Only around one in four of India’s 1.2 billion people have access to clean drinking water in their own homes. Millions of people queue at public water pumps every day, often for hours due to damaged pipes or faulty faucets. New Delhi’s water authority downplays the problem.
“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” says Vijay Kumar, the agency’s chief. “If you look at Delhi overall, certain pockets are water-scarce – not all.”
Those pockets, though, are home to roughly 3.5 million people!
While New Delhi has had water troubles for decades, the shortage has become critical in recent years as the city’s population has grown, rising from 9 million in 1991 to almost 17 million today.
The most urgent problem is getting water to the sprawling neighbourhoods of illegally constructed buildings – home to 40% of the city’s residents and largely without water pipelines.
The water board says it doesn’t have enough water and largely blames neighbouring states, which it says failed to deliver extra water to the city after a 2012 canal renovation.
Still, critics say the city – which is close to two major rivers and has a significant water table – should not be running short. In theory, as the World Bank noted, New Delhi should have more water available per capita than Paris.