Delhi 2020: Why AAP doesn't even need to deliver clean air and 24-hour water

AAP is offering the electorate what the latter doesn't even find itself worthy of. The party can get away by not delivering too.

 |  5-minute read |   02-01-2020
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From water purifiers, to water softerners, to air purifiers, Indians (who are permitted by their pockets) are installing everything they can to ensure they get a healthier life. Those who can't afford the life savers and prolongers, drink the water that is available and the air that is ambient.

Rarely, actually never, do we in India, hold our governments accountable for not providing us with the basic necessities of life.

People in the country install purifiers for a healthier life and keep expectations from the government low for a happier one.

delhi-690_010220042113.jpgPeople rarely hold governments accountable for not providing basic necessities. (Photo: Reuters)

And that is totally okay because rarer still are instances of us holding ourselves accountable for keeping our environment, water and air included, clean. The self-flagellation, however, is the topic for a separate piece.

The concerns this piece intends to limit itself to are the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) promises that could well turn themselves into BJP-style jumlas in just five years from now. This is based on the likelihood that AAP would come back to power in the soon-to-be-announced elections.

On Boxing Day, AAP president and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is in the ring, seeking re-election, promised that his government would ensure 24-hour water supply if voted back to power.

A 2014 report by Delhi Parks and Gardens Society states that at least 200 of the over 1,000 water bodies in Delhi that existed in the 20th century have been encroached upon and are lost.

So can the government work to replenish them?

The place for the 200 water bodies has been taken up by schools, temples, playgrounds, cremation grounds and even a bus terminal. All these buildings and structures would stand, where they currently stand, during and beyond the five years that the AAP wants to stay in power.

This year itself, 21 Indian cities, including Delhi, are likely to run out of groundwater. The Akshardham Temple and Commonwealth Games Village stand on the Yamuna floodplain, blocking the possibility of groundwater recharge. Both these structures are going to stand where they are over the next five years and beyond.

Only 120 out of the 900 million gallons of water that Delhi gets every day is found in Delhi itself. Remember, 900 million gallons is what Delhi gets, not what it needs. It needs about 1,100 million gallons daily.

Sixty per cent of the water supplied by Delhi Jal Board comes from the Yamuna, around 34 per cent from Ganga, and the rest is from groundwater. Both Ganga and Yamuna carry heavy pollutants which has not only made the water toxic but also reduced the flow. The reckless use of groundwater is only going to hasten the drying up of the source.

yamuna_010220042430.jpgThe 22-km stretch of the Yamuna (just about 2 per cent) in Delhi contributes over 80 per cent of the pollution load of the entire 1,300 km river. (Photo: Reuters)

Yamuna, which is a major source of water for Delhi, traverses through the water-scarce Haryana before entering the capital city.

The 22-km stretch of the Yamuna (just about 2 per cent) in Delhi contributes over 80 per cent of the pollution load of the entire 1,300 km river. A total of 22 sewage-filled drains empty into the river between the Wazirabad and Okhla barrage: that's about one drain per kilometre of the river flow in the national capital.

Water is not the only AAP promise that looks difficult to meet. Kejriwal has also promised a pollution-free Delhi in the next five years.

According to experts at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the National Capital Region is so polluted that efforts made even on a war footing are likely to take at least five years to improve air quality to desirable levels as defined by the Centre for Pollution Control Board.

The national capital is not only producing pollutants on its own but is also receiving a rich supply from neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. From stubble burning to construction dust, there are far too many causative agents that pollute the city.

A 'pollution-free' Delhi thus is a tall ask.

The Delhi voter, mind you, is not even asking.

So, while Kejriwal was promising Delhi quite the promised land in exchange for votes, he also promised to stop the demolition drive that has hit traders hard.

But the demolition drive itself is underway following Supreme Court orders which struck down trader-friendly amendments to the Delhi Master Plan 2021 because the relaxed norms were found to be detrimental to the environment. The ground on which the amendments were struck down was the lack of supporting infrastructure such as traffic, parking space and civic amenities.

The AAP government has met its promises on free water, power (also largely uninterrupted) and WiFi. But the promises that the party is making now to reclaim power appear unrealistic.

Backed by its own work in the field of education and healthcare and smart sloganeering of 'Achhe Beete Paanch Saal, Lage Raho Kejriwal', the party looks in pole position to win.

In a country where people are okay getting up at odd hours to fill their buckets and bursting crackers at the height of pollution, AAP can get away by not delivering on the promises of pollution-free Delhi and 24-hour water supply.

The AAP is offering the electorate what the latter doesn't find itself worthy of. The party can get away by not delivering in 2025.

That is, of course, once it wins Delhi in 2020.

Also read: Why every state in India must follow AAP government's education model


Vandana Vandana @vsinghhere

Author is Assistant Editor, DailyO.

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