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Delhi-Haryana Squabble Over Water Supply In Brutal Summer


New Delhi:

The Delhi-Haryana ‘water war’ descended into a predictable political squabble Tuesday between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (also in power in Haryana), and Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, the centre’s rep in the national capital.

The BJP has accused the AAP of “lying” and fomenting the crisis by mishandling resources and demanded answers from its two most prominent faces – Atishi and Saurabh Bhardwaj.  The AAP, meanwhile, has counter-attacked by alleging the BJP government in Haryana continues to not release the city’s share of water despite claiming to do so, and has also fired shots at the Lt Governor.

READ | Delhi’s Water Shortage Continues, BJP And AAP Accuse Each Other Of Lying

The AAP has declared the Lt Governor’s claims – that Haryana is releasing water – to be false and cautioned Mr Saxena against acting as an “agent” of the BJP, which on Sunday formed its third straight union government after a narrow win in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

BJP vs AAP Over Water Supply

Tuesday’s episode of the ‘water war’ broke after Mr Saxena’s social media post, which said he had spoken to Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini and received assurances his government had released water – in quantities required by law – to Delhi. “… water is being provided to Delhi as per allocated share…,” he wrote, saying Haryana had done so “despite the state’s own constraints…”

That prompted the Delhi BJP unit – with one eye on next year’s Assembly election and a chance at a revival in the city after abysmal results in the last two – to attack the AAP.

On Monday Mr Saxena met Atishi and Saurabh Bhardwaj and promised to speak to the Haryana government. He also ticked off the AAP for playing “blame games” at this time.

The AAP, meanwhile, has also moved the Supreme Court on this issue, but received a reprimand after not curing defects in its petition. The plea will now be heard Wednesday. 

For now, the court has ordered Himachal Pradesh to release 137 cusecs of water – approx. 28.3 litres of water flow per second – to reach Delhi’s Hathnikund barrage. The route, though, requires the Haryana government’s cooperation, which the AAP claims is lacking. The Supreme Court last week directed the Haryana government to allow the water through “without hindrance so people of Delhi get drinking water”.

The spat between the two parties today is a roll-over from last week, when too the AAP had accused Haryana of not releasing enough water. Atishi said then only 840 cusecs had been released into the Munak Canal that feeds into the city. The agreement, she said, was for 1,050 cusecs daily, and warned Haryana of a crisis in the city. The Haryana government, though, insisted it had released the water.

The Delhi Water Crisis

The water crisis in Delhi this year is not a new phenomenon. 

For the second-most populated capital city in the world (after Japan’s Tokyo), water is a hugely precious and limited resource, availability of which comes into sharp focus during brutal summers such as this one, which has seen a scorching heatwave drive average daytime temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius and hit a national record high of 52.3.

There are various other factors for this annual crisis, including pollution of water bodies, over-extraction of groundwater (and lack of rainwater harvesting), surge in migrant populations, climate change, and poor water management practices, including water lorries that leak thousands of litres daily as they go about filling tanks at exorbitant prices.

The consequent increased demand for water (and electricity) is not a surprise.

Delhi relies on Haryana, Himachal, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh for more than 90 per cent of its drinking water supply, and around 40 per cent of this comes from four places, including the Yamuna River, which is the source of the dispute with Haryana.

Conservative estimates say Delhi needs 1,300 million gallons per day, or MGD, of which the Delhi Jal board produces only an estimated 1,000 MGD.

Now, the quality of this water is another debate entirely, with some activists and scientists red-flagging factories’ toxic outflow into the Yamuna, already a deeply polluted river.

The Yamuna water reaches Delhi through several channels, the primary of which is the Munak and its sub-channels. Flow through this channel is at the heart of the BJP-AAP spat.

According to the Lt Governor’s office nearly a fifth of water supplied by Haryana on Sunday was ‘lost’. Specifically, on Sunday the Haryana government said it had released 1,161.05 cusecs of water for Delhi as against the required 1,050 cusecs. However, water received on that date was 960.78 cusecs, amounting to a loss of 200 cusecs or a staggering 18 per cent.

Overall, the claim against Delhi is that non-maintenance of the Munak canal leads to 25 per cent of the supplied water being wasted, while theft accounts for 40 per cent of the loss.

The Delhi government has said it is working towards countering theft but pointed out a big chunk of that ‘shortfall’ was due to not yet receiving Himachal Pradesh’s 137 cusecs, which needs to come through Haryana.

AAP’s Big Action Plan

Last month Atishi, Delhi’s Water Minister, warned of an “emergency” and put in place measures, including banning use of drinking water for washing cars and at construction sites. She also announced a centralised control room to monitor water tanker requests.

READ | 200 Teams, Water Wastage Fine: Delhi Acts Tough To Tackle Capital Crisis

“We appeal to Delhiites to cooperate… do not waste water,” she said, while her colleague, Mr Bhardwadj, said, “If we get at least 50 MGD in Wazirabad, it will provide some relief.”

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