[Reader-list] Water Supply in Bhalsawa

jayna kothari jaynakothari at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 29 12:13:49 IST 2004

Dear Lalit and Bharati,

Your posting on water supply and other basic necessities in bhalsawa was 
very interesting. In 2001 when i was working in delhi with Lawyers 
Collective, the people living in the nizammudin basti were sought to be 
evicted and resettled in bhalsawa. at that time we filed a public interest 
litigation against this eviction in the delhi high court.  The eviction was 
stalled for several months and during the court hearings, the issue of water 
supply and availability of basic necessities in bhalsawa came up.  The MCD 
and DDA counsels most confidently stated that all facilities were provided 
for the resettlers! there was no electricity, water and sanitation 
facilities and no schools for the children.  I remember the hearing when the 
MCD counsel was asked by the court about how the students would continue 
their studies, the MCD actually submitted an affidavit and stated that tents 
would be set up and classes would be held in the mornign and evening for two 
batches of students (imagine evening classes without any electricity!)

the high court then set up a two member commisison to make visits to 
bhalsawa and submit a report to the court ...however the resettlement took 
place a few months later. there were a lot of studies done on the situation 
in bhalsawa by several organisations, that we had used for our PIL to make 
out the case that the right to housing includes the right to basic 
facilities such as water, electricity, schools and means of livelihood, and 
when all these were not provided, the people could not be resettled in 


>From: "bharati chaturvedi" <bharati at chintan-india.org>
>Reply-To: bharati chaturvedi <bharati at chintan-india.org>
>To: "lalit batra" <lalitbatra77 at yahoo.co.in>, <reader-list at sarai.net>
>Subject: Re: [Reader-list] Water Supply in Bhalsawa- 2nd posting
>Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 18:46:23 +0530
>dear lalit,
>it is interesting that you bring up the issue of water in bhalsawa and note
>that the area is a landfill. actually, it is ironic that people were ever
>relocated to bhalsawa becasue one of the most severe environmental problems
>related to landfills is the groundwater contamination. communities around
>the world have suffered as a result of leachate (the toxic soup formed when
>condensation and water from waste makes its way down into the ground and
>takes poisons from teh garbage along with it) and studies show how severe
>this actualy is.
>however, what is more striking is the fact that the burden of waste, or 
>significanlty, of consumption, is being shouldered by the poor and
>dispossessed. take a look at the fact that there is no land to dump waste 
>make new landfills. clearly, there is, but in the heart of sacrosant delhi,
>where no one wants to see/smell or even, as you also suggest, drink the
>waste they create. so we have landfills in bhalsawa, and the MCD knows how
>toxic they are.yet, the poor and relocated in the midst of this hell.
>without ever expecting too, these relocated communities begin to bear the
>city's  toxic brunt. We have landfills in Ghazipur, next to a residential
>area and okhla.when the water is contaminated ehre, the poor from  these
>areas, who depend on handpumps, (for the lack of choice and no other
>supplies) fight over this water. these areas were never deserts witho no
>population  when planning was being done for the landfills. the new 
>sites also bear the same discriminatory attitude. lalit, you can fid the
>list in the new report we have done for waste recycling and planning. check
>it out.
>look also at waste recyclers, who pick up all our waste and recycle it, 
>live on our waste and sleep in it, in the midst of sub-standard housing
>where there is no infrastructure of any kind. so then, this is how the poor
>have to hold up the flag of over-consumption.
>cheers (?)
>Bharati Chaturvedi
>Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group
>Office : 12 Jangpura Market, Near Om Hotel, New Delhi. 110014
>Mailing Address : 238 Sidhartha Enclave, New Delhi. 110014
>T: 011-24314478
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "lalit batra" <lalitbatra77 at yahoo.co.in>
>To: <reader-list at sarai.net>
>Sent: Friday, June 25, 2004 12:03 AM
>Subject: [Reader-list] Water Supply in Bhalsawa- 2nd posting
> > Water Supply in Bhalsawa
> > Bhalsawa JJ colony is situated on the Northeastern edge of Delhi
> > surrounded by an overused landfill site, Bhalsawa Dairy and a string of
> > unauthorised colonies. The colony was set up in November 2000 when 526
> > slums were evicted from the Yamuna Pushta area and resettled in 
> > Within 14 months another 4000 odd families were moved to Bhalsawa from
> > slum clusters located in areas as far flung as Garhi (East of Kailash),
> > Jehangirpuri, Gopal Pur, Preet Vihar, Ashok Vihar, Seelam Pur, Teen 
> > Dakshin Puri, Rohini and Nizamuddeen.
> > Bhalsawa was touted as the model resettlement colony by the then Union
> > Minister for Urban Development but that gave little solace to the people
> > who when moved to Bhalsawa found out that it was a completely barren 
> > of land with virtually no facility to meet even the most basic human
> > necessities. One of the things that people desperately wanted and 
> > see anywhere was water both for drinking as well as other purposes. 
> > were of course a few hand pumps installed but instead of water they 
> > out a foul smelling, saline liquid.  On the back wall, in bold red
> > lettering there was a warning cautioning people not to use this liquid 
> > drinking purposes. In desperation many people turned to the nearby
> > gurudwara, which had been standing lonely in the middle of this barren
> > wasteland for quite some years. The gurudwara authorities who were
> > probably annoyed with the sudden deluge of ramshackle hutments in its
> > courtyard refused to oblige. But this cold- shouldering couldn't last 
> > as people became more desperate and thus more persistent. Even then they
> > didn't allow people to fetch water from inside its premises. Instead a
> > water pipe would be given outside the boundaries of the gurudwara on
> > certain hours of the day and people were expected to take, in a
> > 'disciplined' manner, not more than their minimum requirements of water.
> > Its now over three and a half years since Bhalaswa JJ colony was set up
> > but even now it stands on the margins of the water supply network of the
> > city both in terms of the quantity as well as the quality of water with
> > little opportunity (because of geographical marginalisation) for the
> > people to tap into the pipes that give more and better quality water,
> > something which they could do when they were living in jhuggie-jhopri
> > clusters. The move from inner city slums to the 'colony', lying outside
> > the network of a functional civic infrastructure, has thus severely
> > limited the capacity of the poor to lay claim to common urban resources.
> > Presently, there are three main sources of water in Bhalaswa JJ colony.
> > The first one being hand pumps, some of which have been installed by the
> > government while some are individually owned. Hand pumps promise 24 
> > supply of water though this water is absolutely unfit for drinking,
> > cooking or bathing. Hand pumps seem to be fairly evenly distributed 
> > the colony. The second source of water is the sarkari tap. These are few
> > and are concentrated in blocks A-2, A-3 and A-5. The reason for these
> > blocks having more taps probably lies in the presence of a powerful CBO
> > called Bhalsawa Lok Shakti Manch, which is associated with an NGO called
> > Ankur. These three blocks are mainly inhabited by people from Gautam 
> > (Yamuna Pushta) and Garhi. Since Ankur had been working amongst the 
> > of Gautam Puri for more than a decade they are a lot more organised than
> > people living in other blocks. The activists of Ankur and Bhalsawa Lok
> > Shakti Manch have staged many protests against the pathetic water
> > condition in the colony and forced the authorities to improve it to some
> > extent. Now, in town planning parlance, the arrival of sarkari taps
> > signals an integration of the settlement with the main supply network of
> > the city. But for the residents of Bhalsawa taps are more of a bane than 
> > boon. The reason being that the water these taps give is no better than
> > the water that hand pumps provide. I saw people fighting with each other
> > to fetch a bucket or two of a stinking, dark yellow liquid, which is
> > provided by the authorities in the name of water. People told me that on
> > some fortunate late nights or early mornings water is not coloured 
> > it is foul smelling nevertheless. This water is preserved and used for
> > drinking purposes.
> > The blocks where water taps are practically non-existent are serviced
> > through water tankers. Tanker water is locally believed to be the purest
> > water available in the colony. But tankers come only once every 
> > days. So every time a tanker arrives, there is a mad scramble, which has
> > many a time resulted in violent skirmishes between the people. The 
> > paradox lies in the fact that those who have gained better access to
> > 'regular' or 'mainstream' water supply are forced to drink dirty water
> > whereas those who rely on 'irregular' or 'ad hoc' supply through tankers
> > seem to be getting relatively better quality of water.
> >
> > So we have a situation where the colony is largely divided into the 
> > getting more but filthy water and blocks getting less but comparatively
> > better quality water. And the experience of people in both the
> > circumstances is quite painful.
> >
> > Lalit Batra
> >
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________________
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