Delhi water crisis may last 15 days after caste protest

Indian authorities urge residents in the capital to conserve water, after Jat caste protesters sabotaged key waterway.

Residents fill their empty containers with water from a municipal tanker in New Delhi
Officials said on Tuesday just four of New Delhi's nine water treatment plants were currently operating [Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters]

Indian authorities have said severe water shortages in New Delhi will take up to two weeks to fix, after a crucial waterway was sabotaged by protesters to press demands for better treatment for their caste. It caused taps in the capital to run dry.

The Jat caste called off their days-long protest on Monday after they accepted a deal offered by the government in the northern state of Haryana, following days of riots, arson and looting that saw thousands of troops deployed to the state.

READ MORE: India caste protesters accept government offer

Senior water board official Neeraj Semwal said on Tuesday that only four of New Delhi’s nine water treatment plants were currently operating, forcing rationing of supplies to many areas.

“We are hoping to restore partial services in the next two to three days and 100 percent supply within the next 15 days,” Semwal told the AFP news agency.

New Delhi’s water board is trying to restore full supplies to the city of 17 million people that relies heavily on a canal running through Haryana.

‘Districts severely affected’

Water trucks fanned out on Tuesday across the teeming, landlocked city, where infrastructure struggles at the best of times, but it was not clear just how many people were still affected.


“North, west and south Delhi districts were severely affected by the water shortage, with thousands of households not getting regular water supplies,” Semwal said.

Delhi Water Minister Kapil Mishra tweeted that the crisis was “not over yet” and urged residents to conserve water.

“More than 50 percent of Delhi’s water comes from this particular canal. Water is slowly coming back, but there is still a widespread water shortage,” said Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from New Delhi.

India sent troops to secure the canal after protesters demanding a quota for their Jat caste in public service jobs and higher education seized it on Saturday and diverted the water flow away from the capital.

Although schools and many businesses reopened on Tuesday as supplies were partially restored, many are still suffering after the water board said it had been forced to limit supplies.

“The situation has calmed down, but we still hear that some people are afraid to leave their homes as they think that riots can break out again,” Gopalan said.

A political ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was shouted down on Tuesday by a crowd angered by rioting in Haryana.

The chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, was heckled by local people in the town of Rohtak, northwest of the capital, after they objected to his comments promising that they would receive compensation.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies