Roy uses a case study of the situation in Kathputli Basti, a slum in northern Delhi to explore the political failure and policy conflicts that have such a dramatic impact on the city’s poor inhabitants. The Basti has no drinking water pipeline and only a few public water standposts. The nearest drinking water supply tap is located outside the colony under the flyover near Shadipur Bus Depot and the residents have to queue up for hours to fill water. “Water becomes both the symbol of, and the reason for, social, political, economic and ecological conflict in the fast urbanising Indian city, such as Delhi.” she adds.
The Delhi government is taking various steps, including installing a SCADA system to map all transmission lines, constructing three new water treatment plants and underground reservoirs. Besides, the authorities are are working with the Japan International Co-operation Agency to prepare a master plan 2021 to tackle the capital’s water crisis. But Roy’s analysis maintains that these steps will not resolve the core issues.
While upgrading technology, the policy makers need to take the realities of the marginalised communities in access to water into account while framing their policies. A full understanding of these factors is crucial to the design and implementation of successful water supply strategies.
The study opens a timely debate on how best to improve access to potable water which has been enshrined in law by the Supreme Court of India, which stated in 2002 that: “Water is the basic need for the survival of human beings and is part of the right to life and human right as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and can be served only by providing source of water where there is none.”