Alternative World Water Forum

This article focuses on peoples’ movements around water in New Delhi, the capital city of India. New Delhi is characterized by water “issues.” A majority of the city’s 18 million residents have to queue up for water supplied by the government or private tankers, as piped supplies are either defunct or unavailable. The water supplied by the Delhi authorities is discolored or odorous, and thus considered unsafe for drinking. Everyday conflicts around water are common.

These realities, coupled with the fact that water is a basic need, makes it easy to talk to city residents about water. In one conversation, a lady said she was surprised to hear that the Yamuna River, Delhi’s primary source of water, is dead. Surprise is an appropriate response to the death of a river when compared to the more jaded responses others have. A river is described as “dead” when its dissolved oxygen levels are very low. Such rivers are choked to death by sewage and pollutants.

The Yamuna River originates at Yamunotri in the state of Uttarakhand. At a site ten kilometers from Yamunotri, the parallel stream of the Ganga River is redirected into a power plant and used to generate electricity. Despite the odds, the Yamuna is still alive in this region, a smaller stream flowing undisturbed and clean. The future of this stream is determined by all kinds of people along the way.

To begin understanding Delhi’s water, one must first understand the geography, history and governance of water in the city. Each of these plays a role in creating the current struggles around water in Delhi.

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Categories: Global stories

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