Amid election heat, Agra struggles with water woes
While politicians are busy promising the moon, ordinary folks in Agra continue to battle with water scarcity. Water pipelines, being old and rusted, are frequently bursting, snapping supply, even as the mercury continues to soar.
Agra, home to the majestic Taj Mahal, attracts more tourists than any other city in India.
“The problem is of management. A basic need like clean potable water is not on the priority list of the politicians. Yamuna continues to flow dirty, carrying all the industrial effluents and toxics posing health hazards,” river activist Shravan Kumar Singh lamented.
Each year during the lean summer months, the Yamuna water level goes alarmingly low, disrupting supply from the Jeoni Mandi Water Works.
Against an estimated 350 mld water requirement, the two water works are able to supply only around 225 mld. During peak summer, the demand goes much higher which is met by ubiquitous submersible pumps, tube wells and hand pumps.
“Each year the water table is going down… A demand repeatedly made for a barrage on Yamuna river has not received the attention of the state government,” said River Connect Campaign activist Ranjan Sharma.
For the past fortnight, dozens of localities in the city have been struggling with water shortages. The municipal water works has arranged tanker supplies, but these are inadequate and erratic, say citizens of these neighbourhoods.
Queues at the hand pumps continued to lengthen as municipal authorities failed to resume water supply to far flung colonies.
“For more than a week we have not had a drop of water in the taps. The main pipeline from the Sikandra Water Works is damaged. No one knows how much time they will take to repair the leak,” said an angry resident of Awas Vikas colony.
The crisis was compounded when work on shifting a 1,200 mm pipeline in Bodla area began a week ago, after it was damaged. This prevented supply of water to nearly 1.5 lakh citizens in various colonies, including Kedar Nagar.
Another pipeline leaked in Madia katra area on Thursday morning after a valve got choked in Delhi Gate area. Thousands of litres of water went into drains. The engineers fixed the problem late in the evening.
Agra has two water works, one at Jeoni Mandi, more than a hundred years old, and the other at Sikandra, which is just 25 years old and uses an Israeli technique to clean water. The pipeline from this needs extensive repairs.
“Till the repair works are done, citizens will need to look for alternative sources,” a corporator said.
The raw water intake at the local water works improved after the Ganga Jal pipeline was commissioned a few months ago. But this pipeline bringing Ganga Jal to Agra from Bulandshahar district is yet to be connected to the Jeoni Mandi Water Works. Half the water received is going waste into the river.
With nine MLAs, two MPs and one Mayor, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come under heavy fire from thirsty citizens.
“They (BJP) really have no time for such mundane issues, as right now they are all busy bringing Modi back to power,” said Munish Kumar Verma, a shopkeeper at Phullatti Bazar.