Capital Hostage for Water


I sit in my living room looking at the gallons of water pouring down my window, courtesy the Great Indian Monsoons. I can’t help but feel sad seeing such a colossal waste of a precious resource – fresh water. This emotion is heightened by two reasons.

Recently New Delhi was literally held hostage (related to local political protests), due to its partial dependence for water supply on the Munak Canal from the state of Haryana. The fact that the capital of India depends on a neighbouring state for fresh water, while millions of litres just flow away into drains is a pity.

The second reason is my recent visit to Singapore. The city state which is almost the size of Delhi and has since the 1960s relied on Malaysia for most of its water, has come up with an ingenious solution to reduce its woes. It has 17 reservoirs to collect rain water. Almost two-thirds of the city acts as catchment area for rainfall. These reservoirs are connected to each other and receive water from the rest of the city through an intricate network of drains and channels. The collected water is then treated and used to provide drinkable water direct from taps. [These reservoirs are one of four ways (Singapore’s 4-Tap policy) in which Singapore handles its water supply issues; the other three being – desalination of sea water, water recycling (called NEWater) and water from Malaysia.]

17 Reservoirs on the Singapore Map: Screen Capture – Source

Although various measures are already in place for rain water harvesting in New Delhi, seeing the gallons flooding city streets, I am sure we can do a little better. For starters, basic civic sense to not litter rainwater drains would go a long way. Clearing channels would help existing infrastructure in directing runoff water to the required reservoirs – thus also avoiding flooding of roads.

Delhi’s Rain-Flooded Roads – Source

Our measures- big or small, do not have to replicate those from Singapore; but we can certainly learn from their efforts to achieve an independence with respect to something as crucial as water.

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