There is suddenly frenzied activity on Water and Power. Street protests by citizens seem to have had an effect. There is some realization that checks should have been done before the summer. More importantly, it has been seen that water availability is linked to electricity supply – so it has been decided that gensets should be installed at boosting stations/water works and UGTs; alarm systems are required, to control wastage and overflows; standby motors and machinery need to be ordered. Alongside, old pumps need to be replaced, and new water works in colonies constructed.
Yes, all these measures are being thought of ….now.
The bigger picture has not changed. The Irrigation Dept. says that they are supplying enough; and that they are also ready with more, through the NCR Canal – but HUDA does not have the storage or the treatment capacity for the water. HUDA says that they are just receiving, treating, and distributing the water, which is in serious short supply – due to less flow, and leakages in the canal system.
Welcome to the Circle of Administration.
Going forward, are we ready for the monsoon? Will life come to a standstill? Will we harvest the rains? What are the bets that we will know, or see anything, only after the first downpour? (You only make some money at a 100 to 1).
On Power, the DHBVN increased rates a month ago. It even started a policy to reward areas where there are no losses, and where payments were coming on time. It promised at least 20 hours of power daily to the City residents. And then the hot summer hit. And suddenly power fizzled – in fits and starts. Residents and their appliances barely get time to stabilize. DHBVN has scrapped any thought of a new Policy. Many State plants are down; and private power is being negotiated.
The Administration, the powers that wannabe, are suddenly powerless.
The human body can survive two to three days without water, under extreme circumstances. The water shortage of the City seems to be testing this fact, as densely-populated parts of the City dry up. And the power shortage is nothing new to a City which runs on diesel power generation for more than half the time.
The weather is anyway playing truant. The heat is more, the monsoons are abrupt and hard, and the cold is chillier. But what has remained constant is the Administration’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the City’s annual water and power shortage. Every year, after grand claims of ‘making adequate arrangements’, the words always fall short of action. And it is because of the perpetual failure of the authorities that there are two roaring businesses in this City – one of water supply, and the other of back-up power. Everyday, there are scores of tankers scurrying all over the City, heading for posh places like Sushant Lok, DLF Phases I-III, HUDA sectors, Palam Vihar, villages like Farrukhnagar, Sohna, Badshahpur, Jharsa. The only areas where there isn’t a visible scarcity of water are the builder condominiums, that have private borewells for themselves. Though here also, with the rate at which water is being drawn out by the borewells, several of them have dried out in Sushant Lok.
Citizens are out on the streets. In the last two weeks, protests over water shortage have stemmed from DLF Phase I and III, Sushant Lok I, Sector 56, Sector 57, Dundahera, Badshahpur, Jharsa, and old Gurgaon.
Residents Welfare Associations like Joint Action Federation of RWAs (JAFRA), Gurgaon Citizens’ Council (GCC), and RWAs of colonies like Sushant Lok and Ardee City have also protested the lack of water reaching their residents. Even in posh colonies like DLF, there is a group of angry residents milling at the RWA office, all demanding why are they not getting water supply. There have been reports of Jharsa villagers going on a dharna with their Councillor Poonam Yadav, in front of the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) office in Civil Lines. The shouting continued relentlessly until the Municipal Commissioner Sudhir Rajpal gave the crowd his personal assurance that the situation would be improved within a couple of days. After that, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) Chief Dr. Praveen Kumar held meetings with several residents’ associations and assured them of a sustainable water supply. Recently, a team of senior engineers have been dedicated to sort out people’s water woes. It is to be noted that these officials are the decision-making authorities, and it is only now when the residents are baying for blood/water, that such an action team has been formed. The fact is, the highest authorities of MCG and HUDA are having to assure the common man that he would not die of thirst. This, in the Millennium City of India, circa 2012.
Rajeev Kapoor, a DLF E-Block Resident, says that he has shifted to Gurgaon from Paschim Vihar a year and a half back. “The water supply was so much better and problem-free in New Delhi. Here, we are so hassled by essential needs. The water supply in the heat of summer does not even last five to seven minutes a day. The evening supply of water has stopped. And the tankers have almost doubled their rates,” he says. Earlier, the water tanker supplier charged Rs. 500-600, “and now we have to shell out nothing less than Rs. 800 – and Rs. 1,000 if the water tanks above the house have to be filled.
Relating a shudder-worthy tale, Deepak Gupta, resident of Phase II, says, “Once the maintenance agency sent a water tanker to my friend’s house. Imagine his horror, when he found lizards being pumped into his water tank.” The regular water supply is also not up to the mark, Gupta says. “It is discoloured and tepid at best.”
The situation is worse in places like New Colony, Ashok Vihar, Sheetla Colony, and villages like Baghera and Jharsa. Satinder Kumar, a resident of Palam Vihar, relates his agony of buying a plot, and building his house, without knowing how bad the power and water situation would get. “This is intolerable. Why would one spend so much money settling down here, when one has to go down on one’s knees, begging for water? There are so many senior citizens living in my colony, and it is terrible to see all of us rationing water in a modern city like Gurgaon. All the Administration does is give promises, and then breaks them. Even the Councillors have done nothing except thank us for our votes. I want to say aloud that the common man is tired of Gurgaon’s officials. We are paying our taxes, and we don’t even get water. If Gurgaon’s situation is like this, I shudder to think what will be the condition of ‘New Gurgaon’ (new Sectors) in a few years?”
Raju, who has been living in Jharsa since birth, says that water crises have been a part of his growing up. “When there was the Municipal Council, there wasn’t much work done. Only now, when our Councillor has come to the fore, has some development work been seen by the people. And even then, the water problem has not been touched.” When he is informed that the MCG has ordered for 24 new borewells (one of them being in Jharsa), his happiness is tempered. “The problem would be eased for sure. But that doesn’t solve the problem of getting canal water. Why do we have to take water from the ground, when efficient planning can let us have canal water?”
There are also some workers in the booster stations who say that they have not got any water from the Basai plant to boost. “What I heard was that some of the machinery to purify the canal water had shorted. When we don’t get any water, what can we do?,” says a worker.
Officials, however, disagree. R.D Singh, a senior water official, is non-plussed when asked about the shortage of water. “There is nothing wrong in the supply of water. People have started wasting water, and their demand has risen. Otherwise, there is no problem.”
In many sectors, the situation would be dire, were it not for the massive tanks constructed by the residents, who foresaw such emergencies. Sandeep, who has lived in DLF Phase-I and Sector 46 for a better part of his life says, “I make sure that the sector house can store at least three to four days of water in the underground and roof tanks. Summers like these have always happened, and have always caught the officials unawares. It is better to prepare oneself, rather than put trust in the Corporation and HUDA.”
Gurgaon Citizen’s Council, which has been agitating against the water crisis time and again, says that all the measures taken by the authorities have been stop-gap. Even the proposition of putting up 24 new borewells is a shot in the foot (rather than the arm) in the long run, says R.S Rathee, President of Gurgaon Citizens Council. Recently, he had organised a Seminar, where the Council had unveiled a plan for the creation of check-dams, to increase the water table under the City. “The rainwater harvesting structures which have been made are good for nothing. That’s because they extend for 15 feet to 60 feet into the ground, which does not even begin to reach the water table. A rainwater harvesting unit needs to go down to at least 180-200 feet, to make the collected water reach the groundwater supply, to recharge,” he explains.
Col Ratan Singh, President of JAFRA, is more vehement in his words. “These officials do nothing other than making big, empty promises,” he says. Talking about the new RWA Presidents elected in Sectors 21, 22, and 23, he talks about how the residents in these sectors go for two to three days without water. “How can the officials say they work, when people do not have water to drink? Someone is lying, and the people are suffering. That is the root cause.” When reminded about the Power Minister, Captain Ajay Yadav’s promise that the summers would be power-cut free, he says, “Did anybody believe that statement when it came out at that time? The people know, they understand, and they will remember.”
In his area, Rajeev Kapoor says that the power supply is erratic at best. “It comes for an hour, then goes off for another,” he says, adding that his inverter back-up is ineffective, in the light of such intermittent supply. “Most of the residents here have shifted to silent diesel gensets.” The cost of running a genset is nothing less than Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 a month, for those who have one or more air conditioners - working round the clock in the summers. However, even those residents are suffering. Sanjay Arya, resident of DLF, Phase I, says that his neighbour’s diesel genset has stopped working because of the numerous power-cuts. “Even the sound of the chugging machine has changed,” he jokes. Naresh Singh, resident of Sushant Lok III, has subscribed to a community power back-up system in Sushant Lok-III, a new concept. In this case, an enterprising individual sets up a captive power plant, which can churn out 250 MVA of electricity. Then, thick power cables snake out to nearby residents, and immediate power back-up is provided, capable of running every AC and appliance in the house. However, like everything, this service comes at a steep price. Naresh says that there is a ‘non-refundable set-up charge’, which ranges from Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1.2 lakh. Then, Rs. 2,000 flat is charged per month, regardless of power outage. Finally, the power supplied is charged at anything between Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 per unit. “This is highway robbery, but what can a resident do?” rages Arya. His inverter is hard-pressed to recharge in the brief moments the power supply is steady, so ‘there is no choice left’,” he admits.
H.N Chopra, the President of DLF City RWA, says that there are plenty of power suppliers in the DLF Phases I-IV. “They provide power as and when the situation demands.”
Every year the City gets to see new levels of desperation, when facing a shortage of water and power. No water? Get a tanker. No Power? Get a genset – or better, pay someone to do the same. The MCG has authorised 24 new borewells, which it assures will only be used for residential drinking water purposes. The question is, even the tankers who provide the water supply get their water from such borewells. What is the difference? There is no concrete plan to increase the supply of canal water, or ensure that those who need it, will get it. The only people truly content these summers are water tanker operators, mineral water bottle suppliers, and private power contractors. They had the business foresight to anticipate the shortages in this Millennium City. They are the new power brokers.
The fact is, the highest authorities of MCG and HUDA are having to assure the common man that he would not die of thirst. This, in the Millennium City of India, circa 2012.
DHBVN Chief Speaks
The Chief General Manager of Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam SS Gupta says, “There is the current power scenario, and the future power scenario. As of right now, the power outage is not so bad,” he states.
He outlines the future plan of DHBVN. “We have taken on a Consultant who will study the power demand and supply, and draw up a ‘Power Plan for 2025'. The plan will outline how much power will be expected of us by 2025, and we will work accordingly.”
No water- Builder’s Responsibility?
Sudhir Kapoor, Secretary of DLF City RWA, says, “There is not a day in this summer when I don’t have a horde of angry residents in my office, demanding that the RWA do something about the water crisis.”
He recalls one incident when a resident called him up on the phone. “He said that he was tired of going to every authority, and not getting any answer. I told him that if DLF does not get any water, how will they get it to the residents? It does not solve problems to blame an agency when even they are helpless. Fuming at this, the resident said that since the fault extended all the way to the Basai water plant, maybe the developer (DLF) should invest its money in refurbishing the water plant!”
Most of the people have learnt how to conserve water, Kapoor says. But there are still some who insist on washing their cars, and the road in front of their houses, just because they are the fortunate ones getting water. These are the people who need to learn that water is today the most precious commodity in Gurgaon, he states.