Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As denizens scramble for water, Railways extract 14.45 lakh litres daily (The Hindu 17 April 2014)

Akanksha Jain
The extensive Delhi zone of the Indian Railways, it seems, is still dependent on tubewells for its whooping water demands running into lakhs of litres and has failed to set up Rain Water Harvesting Systems (RWHS) at its stations and colonies.
RTI query
In an RTI reply, the Railways has stated that 14,45,500 litres of water was consumed daily in its eight colonies in Delhi for domestic purposes and also for cleaning trains. All this water was drawn from tubewells .
The reply was filed to an RTI query by environment activist Vikrant Tongad, who has been pursuing the issue of depleting ground water and the failure of various government bodies in setting up RWHS.
Mr. Tongad had last year sought information on whether there were any RWHS at any of the Delhi railway stations and the source of water used there.
The Railways in its delayed reply has said the 14.45 lakh litres of water comes from 15 tubewells – one in Hazrat Nizammudin Railway Colony, four in Lajpat Nagar Railway Colony, one in Gulabi Bagh, three in Sewa Nagar, one in Lodhi Colony and five in Sarojini Nagar Colony.
Only Gulabi Bagh Railway Colony has a RWHS.
In another reply, the Railways said four RWHS were present in four railway colonies, including Moti Bagh, Panchkuian Road and Tughlakabad, but there was no data on the quantity of rain water collected.
In these colonies, 37 tubewells were also used to meet a daily water requirement of 31.79 lakh litres.
The reply also shows that the Railways does not have any policy on rain water harvesting.
Mr. Tongad said that “despite such huge stations, especially the New Delhi Railway station which is also the headquarters of the northernmost range of the Indian Railways, no space was being used for rain water harvesting.”
He said there was a rule in Delhi that if any agency was discharging huge quantities of used water daily, it has to recycle the same but the Railways was not doing so.
He also said, “rain water can be collected in storage tanks at stations but it should not be sent directly through the recharge pipes into the ground as our stations were dirty and any rain water sent directly into the ground would pollute the groundwater”.
Mr. Tongad said he has also filed a complaint before the Central Information Commission against the Railways for furnishing a delayed and unsatisfactory reply to his RTI application.

Desilt drains by May 15, LG tells govt (Times of India 17 April 2014)

NEW DELHI: Even though monsoon is expected to be below normal this year, the city has already started gearing up for it. The lieutenant governor has directed the government to complete the desilting of drains by May 15 to avoid waterlogging.

In a review meeting that LG Najeeb Jung held with various civic agencies and government departments on Wednesday, Jung said the work will be reviewed by mid-May. He also directed the chief engineers and superintendent engineers of PWD and the three municipal corporations to continuously monitor and assess the situation on the ground from mid-May till the end of the monsoon in September. He has asked for a list of officials to whom specific duties will be assigned.
Jung said: "There must be better intradepartmental coordination between the municipalities, PWD and the irrigation and flood control department. All control rooms set up by different governmental agencies must be able to address the queries of the respondents, irrespective of whose jurisdiction the complaint falls under". Sources said agencies will no longer be able to tell a complainant that a particular area does not fall under their jurisdiction and will have to forward the complaint to the agencies concerned as "residents are not expected to know the various land-owning agencies".

The issues discussed at the meeting included preparation to tackle floods in the Yamuna and other nallahs; preparation for possible cloudbursts and heavy rainfall during the monsoon; update on desilting of drains and nallahs; setting up of control rooms; identification of vulnerable areas etc.

The meeting was attended by the chief secretary, secretary (finance), secretary (irrigation and flood control department), secretary (PWD), secretary (environment and forest), secretary (urban development), commissioners of the north, south and east municipal corporations, CEO of Delhi Jal Board and other senior officers.

Delhi HC summons chief secy over waterlogging (Times of India 17 April 2014)

NEW DELHI: Irked by the city government's lack of seriousness on the waterlogging issue, the Delhi high court on Wednesday summoned the chief secretary for an explanation.

A bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Jayant Nath sought the presence of the top bureaucrat on April 23 as a report on setting up a workable infrastructure for present and future requirement of the city's drainage was not submitted despite assurances given to the court last month.
HC had in October last year first directed a government-appointed committee to expeditiously submit the report by March 26, 2014. The panel was also instructed to study the water-holding capacity of different catchment areas and ponds, the overall drainage system of unauthorized colonies and to fix the service-level benchmark.

The court had passed the order on a plea by various NGOs and resident welfare associations which had complained about repeated waterlogging during the rainy season.

Though it had disposed of all the pleas in the matter, the HC kept one petition alive since it was taken up suo moto by the court based on news reports of waterlogging in South Extension area and had listed it for directions on March 26. Pressing for directions to the authorities, the RWA of South Extension had even showed video clips and newspaper photos about waterlogging near AIIMS and requested the court to intervene.
The RWAs highlighted before HC how despite several directions by the court the municipal corporations are indifferent to the issue. Not only does the area suffer from waterlogging, it also receives contaminated deinking water as sewer pilelines in tha area-- laid in the 1950s-- have corroded.

The court had also expressed anguish over the failure of the civic agencies to desilt the storm water drains in compliance with its previous order and asked the Delhi government's urban development secretary to file an affidavit indicating status of desilting of the drains.

Monsoon fear for South Ex-I (Times of India 17 April 2014)

NEW DELHI: With the monsoon drawing closer, residents of South Extension Part-I are getting worried. Developmental work has been on hold for the past six months due to the election season. South Delhi Municipal Corporation was supposed to start reconstruction of drains and roads last year and finish it by December. The projects had to be put on hold due to the model code of conduct, officials said.
"We had issued work orders for rebuilding storm-water drains along with repair of roads. The poll code for the assembly elections came into force in October. Now, the work can start only after May 16," said a senior corporation official.

Residents said parts of the colony are dug up, causing inconvenience. "People find it difficult to negotiate their way. The area has been dug up for months now. The civic agency should carry out the work in an organized and a time-bound manner," said a South Extension resident.
Sources said that close to 60% of work on the drain had been wound up. The corporation, however, is still to install the reverse valve of the drain to prevent any backflow during the rains. "The area needed storm-water drains, but the new drains will be effective only if there is proper outflow of rainwater," said Manjeet Singh Chugh, secretary of South Extension-I RWA.

The corporation had allocated Rs 4 crore for the project, which was taken up after orders from the Delhi high court in 2012. "The work comes under the non-plan head. They are unable to complete the work in the absence of funds ," said Chugh. The claim is refuted by the civic agency. "The setback is because of the poll code, not financial problems," said an official.
Chugh filed a PIL in the Delhi high court in 2012, fed up with the work done by the civic agency. "We used to dread monsoon as the basement and ground floors would be flooded due to poor drainage. Colony roads would be submerged and we would have to wade through ankle-deep water. It took a lot time to flush out the stagnant water. We have been living in this mess for nearly two decades. Though the corporation had planned the work, it didn't get off the ground. Now that things have got going, they have come up with another excuse," said Chugh.

It seems the residents will have to put up with waterlogging this year too.

Monsoon may be 94% of average, private forecaster says (Times of India 16 April 2014)

Monsoon may be 94% of average, private forecaster says
A private forecaster has said that monsoon this year will be below normal at 94% of the long range average.

NEW DELHI: El Nino is likely to hit rains in India but the country may escape an overall drought, private weather company Skymet said in the first forecast by any agency about this year's monsoon. Rainfall in the season is likely to be below normal at 94% of the long range average, it said.

Releasing its assessment some 10 days before the official India Meteorological Department's monsoon prediction, Skymet said rains are likely to be patchy in June and July but would pick up in August, although still remaining below par at 98% that month.

"The weakness in monsoon could possibly be attributed to an evolving El Nino," said Skymet CEO Jatin Singh. On the brighter side, he said there were indications that the El Nino's progress may halt mid-way into the monsoon season, thus allowing better rains in August.

El Nino is the name given to periodic warming of sea surface waters in equatorial east and central Pacific which leads to changes in wind patterns, impacting weather across large parts of the globe. It also generally weakens the Indian monsoon.

Skymet said it statistically analysed data from dynamical climate models of international agencies to put together what it called its monsoon 'foreshadow' for this year. The forecast has a 4% margin of error, it cautioned.

The weather company, which began releasing a monsoon outlook in 2012, said this year's monsoon is likely to have a weak start with staggered progress across the country after its onset.

"Some parts of the country are likely to see drought," said D R Sikka, a retired IMD meteorologist who assisted in the exercise. Skymet said regions where rains could be poor were northwest India (Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan) and central-west India (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Vidarbha, Marathwada, Madhya Maharashtra, Konkan, Goa, north interior Karnataka and Telangana).

Meanwhile, IMD is in the process of finalizing its monsoon forecast, which is scheduled to be released around April 25.