The Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) proposed new age housing scheme in east Delhi’s Karkardooma, among other things, is expected to be a game-changer as far as the use of water is concerned.
The transit-oriented development project promises to be a zero discharge area where water will be reused and recycled and sewerage treated. DDA has also promised it won’t need more water than what the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) already supplies in the area.
In March this year, when the DDA announced the project, it caught the attention of many - those who were looking forward to it and those who were wary of it. It aims at adding 4,500 homes to the city’s housing network all the while minimizing the need to travel as commercial space and residential space will coexist.
Skeptics - most of them working in the field of environment - have warned that the project will add to the city’s ever increasing load. But DDA officials defend it. “A project of this kind has not been envisioned in the city so far. We have planned meticulously to conserve, reuse and recycle water and are sure there will be no shortage. All will this be done without extracting any groundwater at all,” DDA - vice chairperson Balwinder Kumar had said at the launch.
In the past, however, DDA has not been as careful. Huge housing colonies came on large swathes of land in Dwarka without taking into consideration the associated water demand. A similar story was repeated in Vasant Kunj.
The result: residents in these areas drill into the land to find water. These illegal bore wells - along with thousands of others that serve the unauthorized colonies in the city - are among the primary reasons for the fast falling water table in the city.
Critics, however, say that TOD projects are just unnecessary burden on the city’s overstretched resources.
“We need to plan such projects in NCR and not within the city. There is a very real need to decongest the city but we keep adding more and more people to it. The land pooling policy will create a similar problem,” said water activist Diwan Singh.
Balwinder Kumar, however, believes the idea of decongestion is flawed.
“These projects are needed to take on illegal and unauthorised colonies. If we don’t start any housing projects in the city in an effort to decongest it, illegal housing, which will extract ground water and hurt the system more, will come up,” he says.
There are currently over 20 lakh households in the city that are not supplied water by the DJB pipelines. While some receive water from tankers, others extract groundwater to meet their daily demand.
The Delhi Jal Board has said its long term priority is to lay water pipelines to connect every home. While some projects have already been sanctioned, a very big part of Delhi still remains unconnected to any water network. These dark spots are a problem for residents as well as the city’s water situation.
“The dual piping system, where treated non-drinking water can be used for non-drinking purposes will be a good step. Water wastage is also very high in the city and that needs to be plugged by changing old pipelines,” says Singh.