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Acute Water crisis amid Blistering Summer

The Summer of 2024 will be long remembered for its grueling heat and problems that come with it. There is hardly any corner of this country that has not been badly impacted by unprecedented heat wave. In Delhi, the temperatures crossed 50 degrees for the first time in the living memory of people and same […]

The Summer of 2024 will be long remembered for its grueling heat and problems that come with it. There is hardly any corner of this country that has not been badly impacted by unprecedented heat wave. In Delhi, the temperatures crossed 50 degrees for the first time in the living memory of people and same is the case in several other parts. There seems to be no let up to this misery unleashed by nature and as per reports in various newspapers, more than 50 people have died in the national capital alone. This is not only serious but shameful since both the City government and the National government are based here. Unfortunately, political parties have commenced the blame game and are accusing each other of being responsible for these deaths and the acute water crisis that has also accompanied the scorching heat. It should be clearly understood that the authorities of any shade should have been better prepared to deal with the situation, and for a country which is aiming to be amongst the top three in the world, losing so many people is not a good sign under any circumstances.

It is true that the wrath of nature can unleash problems which are unheard of. However, the governments can be better prepared. There is an urgent need to lay more emphasis on water sustainability, something which was advocated so many years ago by Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, when he was a minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee dispensation. This holds good and all the parties, and instead of attacking each other, they must cooperate and help in finding solutions rather than playing politics. Water is a national resource and every citizen has a right to access it. The TV shots of how people are quarreling over water is something that is both pathetic and alarming. There have been disputes amongst states over the sharing of waters. Punjab and Haryana have had serious differences on the SYL canal matter and both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clash each year on the Cauvery issue. There have to be permanent solutions that need to be found, and while the governments at any place have no control over the nature, they can exhibit better preparedness.

In Delhi, the elected government has blamed Haryana for not allowing sufficient water through the Munak Canal to reach the city. For many years, this is a story which gets repeated. There was a time when most of the Munak Canal had kacha walls and there would be a huge loss of water during transmission. In fact, even after many portions have been made pucca, it becomes the best excuse of governments to extricate themselves for their own failings. The Delhi Jal Board needs a complete overhaul. Its functioning and activities are most bizarre. In the middle of summers, they start digging for laying of sewer pipes, and the services they need to provide to various localities leave much to be desired.

There have been murders that have been reported out of rage over not getting water and anyone who needs to witness the chaos should pay a visit to Sangam Vihar for instance to gauge the enormity of the problem. People have gone waterless for days and the tanker owners are minting money with the government officials looking the other way, or being in cahoots with them. This is shameful and unforgivable. Yes, it is true that those who have settled in Sangam Vihar or for that matter areas around Mehrauli and the Aravali were aware from the very beginning that there was going to be a problem so far as water distribution is concerned.

However, with modern technology at hand, these impediments should have been overcome. The new Gurugram has been located on the Aravali and in some years, all the expensive places there would also be experiencing acute water shortage, unless the authorities using modern technology, start working on the matter from now onwards. Most hill stations where people go to cool themselves during the peak of summers also have insufficient water supply. In Shimla for instance, some Hotel owners charge whopping amounts for buckets of water when the crisis deepens.

The short point is that so far as water is concerned, all parties must work together to end or at least reduce the sufferings of the people. The Congress which contested the polls along with AAP during the recently Lok Sabha elections is now on the streets of Delhi asking for action against the government for its failure to meet the heat wave challenge.

The capital’s problems are unique because of the multiplicity of authorities and the bureaucracy, instead of being accountable, engages in the game of blame shifting. This is where the political class must assert itself and rein in the officials, who are always keeping their work updated on files but never in the field. The Monsoons shall bring some relief from the heat but it does not mean that the authorities should stop preparing themselves for meeting such a crisis in the future. The Prime Minister must intervene and convene an all-party meeting with the specific agenda of addressing the water issue at the national level. It should be result oriented meeting with no party playing dirty politics on this important matter. But will our politicians rise to the occasion?

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ACUTE WATERSummersummer 2024Water