Jaipur/Delhi: Be it Jaipur or Delhi, all water ATMs draw water from ground. The only exception is the national capital’s prime area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the New Delhi Municipal Council.
According to Central Ground Water Board’s (CGWB’s) ‘Ground Water Year Book 2014-15 for Rajasthan State’:
“There is progressive increase in groundwater draft due to increasing population, urbanisation and industrialisation.
In as many as 172 blocks, the draft has exceeded the estimated replenishable resource. In 24 blocks, the stage of development has reached critical levels and 20 blocks in semi-critical levels.
Any further increase in the draft will aggravate the already worsened situation of declining water levels and/or degrading water quality in some areas.”
Public Health Engineering department officials said that neither have they sanctioned any such arrangement, nor has anyone asked them for permission for it. “It is for the municipal corporation to decide on such permissions,” Devraj Solanki, the PHE department’s additional chief executive (Jaipur Region II), said.
Ashok Lahoty, the then Mayor and now an MLA, said there is no policy decision as such except that water would be offered free of cost to the poor.
Jaipur already gets water from the Bisalpur Dam nearby and another one is in the pipeline at Isarda, for drinking water for the urban population. This is why there are no major water quality issues that have been reported yet.
Then why has the need for private players arisen? “Well, the company offered to provide alkaline water, which is good for health. Plus, it was being for offered free. All we needed was to provide them land for the kiosk,” Lahoty said.
Experts have suggested incentivising operators for resource augmentation and punitive actions against those who merely tap groundwater without recharge. Farhad Contractor, who has been working with communities in the water conservation sector in Rajasthan for more than two decades, suggested that the policy makers, water ATM proponents and the private company operators all need to now think long term. The operators, he said, should also think of harvesting rainwater for each of the water ATM machines involved.