Need for Proper Water Supply Policies for the Slums & JJ clusters of the NCT of Delhi

Information about the Issue

The Delhi Jal Board in the the Eleventh Plan had charted out plans for the supply of drinking water services for all slum localities mainly with the help of two schemes viz., Grant in Aid for Augmentation of Water Supply in JJ Clusters & the Water Supply in Resettlement Colonies. The Delhi government’s policy however, did not suggest anything specific to JJ Clusters but envisioned provisions for water for all and public education and awareness regarding efficient water usage as proposed by the policy statements. In the same year, the State government of Delhi announced the Jal Adhikar Connection Policy for residents of JJ colonies. It aimed at providing legally recognised water connections to people living in the slums, along with a 100 percent waiver with respect to late payment surcharge for commercial consumptions amounting to Rs. 1,100 crores. However, there is a significant dependency in functions of governance with respect to the multiple institutions mainly the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and other State agencies across the city which affect the supply of water to the slums and JJ colonies of Delhi. For example, the MCD as well as the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) are in charge of local sanitation, which is crucial to the supply and safe utilisation of water. This means there is a multiplicity of authorities responsible for water supply procedure for the slums areas of Delhi, which can result in non delivery or failure of clean and effective water supply in Delhi’s densely populated and unregularised slum areas.

Despite the aspirations of the policy and the positive data from the Economic Surveys, news reports and status of water supply in Delhi’s slums, especially during the pandemic portray a concerning picture. As per reports, in multiple unauthorised slums in Delhi, the haphazard arrangement and growth of housing structures and high density of constructions have proven to be a major obstacle in initiating better water infrastructure and these households face immense difficulty in collecting water. Researchers suggest the need to distinguish access & method of water supply between regularised and unauthorised slums. As most of the JJ slums depend on tankers for water supply, and since government tankers are mostly incapable of meeting the overall demand for the slums, private water-dealers engage in illegal ways of procuring and supplying water to the slum-dwellers. While government tankers have further been limited in service during the pandemic, even private tankers have stopped water supply in the slums. Moreover, due to the economic and logistical issues arising out of the lockdown, in slums where such water tankers are available, prices are far from affordable. As per the WaterAid India’s assessment of the practice of handwashing in South Asia in general and particularly in India during COVID-19, highlights how the lack of availability of water forces people to prioritize drinking and cooking over handwashing and hence makes them more vulnerable to fatal diseases.

The right to water as well as right to sanitation are considered fundamental human rights and therefore, integral parts of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution according to the interpretations of the Supreme Court of India. Lack of access to water and sanitation does not only limit human capabilities, but is also linked with other forms of ‘unfreedoms’ in line with the idea of ‘relational deprivations’. Moreover, the Goal 6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals states the need to “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”. 

What are we doing in this regard?

Having concluded that there is still a huge gap in infrastructural provisions in efficient water supply for Delhi’s slum dwelling population, we have written to the Office of the Chief Minister of Delhi, the Secretary of Delhi Jal Board, Chief Executive Officer of DUSIB & the Vice President of the DDA elaborating on our concerns and suggesting policy changes.

Highlighting the fact that the prevailing reality of water supply in Delhi’s slums is far from the aspirations of the Government’s proposed policies and initiatives for effective and fair distribution of water, we have urged the authorities to work towards the following policy interventions:

  • Immediately revive the “Public Monitoring of Water Tankers” initiative to ensure transparency and reliability in public distribution of water.
  • Extend the provisions of the Jal Adhikar Connection Policy to include the setting up of temporary subsidised water ATMs around the unauthorised slums in an effective public-private partnership model. Subsidized rates can be fixed by the DJB, and a certain amount of the expanded budgetary allocations made by the Delhi government in water spending can be set aside for this purpose. 
  • DJB should set up provisions for survey and research in collaboration with NGOs and experts to monitor the progress of its efforts for water supply in JJ clusters and slums in the NCT of Delhi.
  • Set up community-based inspection and suggestion groups that would be functional across each slum with regard to the status, impact-assessment & reporting of the conditions of water supply. It can also include a complaints collection and remedial suggestions drive for documenting lists of complaints and suggestions from the households of the JJ cluster.
  • Organise innovative campaigns in the JJ clusters on water conservation and proper sanitation. 
  • Empower the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to rejuvenate the Environmental Improvement in Urban Slums (EIUS) Scheme in dealing with issues of sanitation in JJ slums.
  • Entrust the functional Basti Vikas Kendras to design innovative campaigns around the importance of using Jan Suvidha Complexes to foster improved awareness around sanitation.
  • Work with the Basti Vikas Kendras for community engagement under the EIUS scheme which would not only help in public awareness, but also assist in transparent and efficient functioning of the water supply projects. Budgetary allocation for both the Jan Suvidha Complex and the EIUS scheme would be sufficient for the Basti Vikas Kendra to organise these initiatives.

What can you do to further this cause?

  • You can share our Social Media Updates regarding this issue, to help increase the outreach of this campaign.
  • In case you are a resident of Delhi, and wish to write to the Government exercising your right to information on connected issues, write to us.
  • You can even volunteer to support this campaign, as per your skillset.
  • If you are an organisation working in this domain, and would like to collaborate to take up this or the connecting issues forward, write to us.

Important Documents

  1. Letter to stakeholders by LQF dated 4th November, 2020
  2. Jal Adhikar Connection Policy 
  3. Water Policy for Delhi