Govt tankers being hijacked as city thirsts
AS the National Capital struggles to slake its thirst under the blazing sun, water smugglers are siphoning off Delhi Jal Board supplies, offering the elixir of life to the highest bidder.
An India Today TV investigation has found the city, the world's second most populated after Tokyo, is succumbing rapidly to water smugglers diverting shipments to malls, hotels and swimming pools. The illegal trade is flourishing right on DJB properties, the probe found, more so when the crisis deepens during summer.
An estimated 56% of Delhi's aquifers are overexploited. At locations in South and South West Delhi, water has dipped 20 to 30 metres below the ground level, according to a Delhi government survey. It is not fit for human consumption, the study noted.
Official data suggest Delhi is facing a crippling shortage of 300 million gallons of drinking water every day, with the demand soaring to 1,200 MGD this summer. In a separate report, the NITI Aayog has warned that 21 cities, including the National Capital, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.
Earlier, an India Today TV Special Investigation Team (SIT) showed how a well-oiled mafia is sucking out endangered groundwater for illicit profits. In mid June, the SIT caught operatives running illegal water plants, disgorging the scarce resource from borewells for sale on the black market.
The latest investigation found out how touts, middlemen and drivers of DJB water tankers are skimming off the supplies originally destined for slums and unauthorised neighbourhoods with no piped connections. On the sprawling compound of the DJB executive engineer's office in an Okhla neighbourhood, one Surendra sat comfortably on a motorbike parked under a tree. He was no local resident visiting the facility over a problem.
When India Today TV reporters, posing as private water suppliers, investigated him, Surendra came across as a shrewd broker negotiating a deal for a tanker-load of 'shipment'. For him, this meant quick money. "You tell me how much will you pay?" he asked. "I can send the vehicle (filled tanker)."
When asked how many litres, Surendra said, "Any quantity of your choice." He guaranteed that the water he provides is sourced directly from DJB stations. "Hope the water will be clean and filled up from here," the reported asked. "The water will be filled up from here of course," he replied.
Surendra promised deliveries during office hours. "I can very well send it (the tanker) daytime. You tell me how much you will pay and I'll let the driver know," he demanded, and then quoted a price of Rs 700 for a big tanker. Touts at DJB facilities are not the only culprits choking supplies for ordinary residents.
India Today TV found that water trucks can be diverted midway to anyone willing to pay. Pankaj, a tanker driver in the Okhla area, solicited Rs 600 for emptying the consignment into a swimming pool. "The vehicle will cost Rs 600 for 2,500-3,000 litres," he said. "The water is clean. I just have to see how big the swimming pool is, how much quantity it needs." Private water 'sharks' roam brazenly around DJB centres, the investigation observed.
Operatives assign their truck drivers to pump water from the utilities. "We stand in the queue with our numbers," a driver of a private supplier said. "We'll have a 12-wheeled truck pumped in." When asked if it is from the Jal Board, he replied - "yes."