Large parts of New Delhi were struggling with acute water shortages yesterday after a neighboring state cut its supplies at the peak of summer, officials said.
The Indian capital, with a population of 16 million sweltering in 43oC summer heat, relies on four neighboring states for its water — Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
Haryana, the biggest supplier, cut its flow to the city on Thursday and about 3 million people have suffered shortages or been completely cut off, according to the Delhi Jal Board, a government agency responsible for water supply.
Some of the capital’s smartest districts are among the affected areas, and the crisis reflects growing water stresses in the country of 1.2 billion people.
“Suddenly, Haryana is refusing to release water to Delhi,” a top Delhi Jal Board official said, requesting anonymity.
Several states across India face major challenges over water supply, triggering long-running legal battles over water sharing.
New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit accused Haryana, which says it has to conserve water for its own residents, of “playing foul” with the capital.
“We are not asking for any favors. We want what is due to us,” Dikshit said in a statement on Thursday.
In the peak of summer, New Delhi needs 4,164 million liters of water every day, according to the Delhi Jal Board, but public water providers are able to supply only 3,161 million liters.
“There is always a supply and demand gap, but this gap is just widening and worsening the crisis,” said Himanshu Thakkar, an expert on water management at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People research group in New Delhi.
According to a federal government report on water consumption in 2010, usage per capita in Delhi is higher than in most European cities.
“Delhi is a privileged city, it is a spoilt child. It does not use rain water harvesting, refuses to recharge 600 water bodies [reservoirs] and just chooses to complain about shortages,” Thakkar said.
A study last year by experts published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a US journal, estimated that more than 1 billion urban Indians will face serious water shortages by 2050.