Make money while the water lasts
In this issue of the newsletter, the second part of the PPP story looks at small informal water service providers, taking the example of Delhi. More than 50% of the population of Delhi is actually served by these informal water service providers. Although the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is mandated to supply water to the poor living in unauthorised colonies, JJ clusters, resettlement colonies and urban and rural villages, the reality is that people living in these non-planned areas pay more than 750 times of what DJB charges the well-off living in planned colonies. CSE staff undertook a survey in several of these colonies. Water business is indeed a lucrative business, and the direct result has been the drastic decline in groundwater levels, particularly in parts of south Delhi. The Delhi government drafted a bill in 2002 to give more teeth to Delhi Jal Board to regulate extraction of groundwater (bill no. 1 of 2002, the Delhi Water Board (Amendment) bill, 2002), but this has not been passed till date. The two reports together show that there is inaction on the part of Delhi government all around – not making the privileged sections of the population pay the true costs of water supply; and inaction to prevent looting of both groundwater as well as the poor.
The article on sand mining looks at the state of regulation of sand mining in different states. Regulation of minor minerals rests with the state governments and in almost all states illegal sand mining is killing off the rivers of India. A model bill on sand mining in Karnataka resulted in stiff resistance from politicians and miners alike forcing the government to say that it will review the regulation. In Maharashtra, the ban on sand mining following a PIL was also withdrawn a month later. People’s protests and even the fast to death of Swami Nigamanand have not made much of a dent and rivers are slowly dying.
The Rural Water Programme works to stimulate the development of policies and strategies for sustainable, participatory and equitable water management in rural India. While the area of water is vast, there is a special focus on drinking water to look at how we can move towards sustained availability of safe and adequate drinking water.
In 1997, with the publication of Dying Wisdom, CSE created both interest and actions to promote the idea of rainwater harvesting to supplement modern systems of water management as a viable alternative source of irrigation and drinking water. CSE’s policy advocacy resulted in the concept of rainwater harvesting becoming embedded in the policy domain in the country with numerous schemes currently being implemented to promote capturing rainwater and recharging groundwater. At the same time, people were galvanised by wide dissemination of innovative ways of using rainwater.