Dwarka sub-city has around 35+ water bodies. These are traditional and natural water bodies (johads) usually attached to numerous villages in and around Dwarka. Most of these are already dead or dying. However, two of them, at Dwarka's Sector 20 and 23, have been revived by Dwarka residents and environmentalists, with hardly any help or support from the government.
In the face of very difficult odds, the campaigners of saving the water bodies of Dwarka have today almost given up all hope. They are largely a dejected lot. But the reason why they wanted to save these traditional water bodies is still very much there. Areas like Dwarka face a perennial problem of water shortage and groundwater is fast running out.
Nidhi Gupta, a resident of Dwarka, who had been working to save Dwarka water bodies, says, “Saving Dwarka water bodies is a losing battle. We tried the best we could but now we have almost given up. How long can one fight without any support? The matter does not figure anywhere in the priority list of the government.”
Anil Nayal, a resident of Dwarka, says, "Water bodies are not being maintained or preserved at all. Most of them are in poor condition. There are few of them in Sector 7 which are almost dead."
These are basically depressions on land which gets filled by rain water. The villagers usually dug up these depressions so that they could hold more water. These depressions are then connected with storm water drains so that surface runoff water could reach them. But over the years their use to the villagers declined, their bed got encroached, the drains bringing rain water to them got blocked, destroyed or built over. Some were used to dump sewer water.
Diwan Singh, an activist and convener of Natural Heritage First who has been actively involved in the revival of water bodies in Dwarka says "After having spent the last six years reviving water bodies in Dwarka,
I have realised that revival alone is not the difficult part. In all these years, a major hurdle in our efforts has been the government machinery."
Diwan Singh, together with members of the community has worked on the revival of three water bodies in Dwarka sector 20, 23, and 24. (One in sector 24 then became partially dead). Work on these particular
Water bodies began six years ago.
Singh points out that despite several orders by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), no concrete steps have been taken by the authorities to revive the water bodies.
"Reviving a water body is easy in Delhi but no authority is interested in doing it. The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) took up the task for several months but left it in between. The work on various water bodies, including these two in Dwarka, actually started six years ago. But since we had no resources, it took a lot of time," said Mr Singh.
"Firstly, we don't have any mandate to work on these as it's under government or DDA land. Then, there is always a shortage of funds and time. We have to act like a task force during the monsoon season to revive them. Sometimes, we could not get any labour and we had to do everything ourselves," says Singh.
The ponds received rainwater from stormwater drains and the community worked towards reviving it and made sure that these survived till the next monsoon.
"We have used a similar model to the water bodies revived in Dwarka's sector 20 and 23, diverting water from rainwater drains as well as creating slopes and channels for rainwater to automatically flow into it," said Singh. He also suggested making use of supply from the nearest sewage treatment plant to maintain the waterbody year-round.
The community people and environmental activists of the area are busy working for the revival of water bodies in the area. They are talking to the officials concerned and trying their best to win the battles.
SS Mansingh, Dwarka resident and Vice president of SDKs says, "We selected about 33 water bodies in and around Dwarka with a team of the central government. Half-hearted efforts are being made by DDA and Delhi government on four or five water bodies to revive them but with no result after that. It is not a priority for any government. Activists do not have the resources to do the job nor do they have the authority. We had 40/45 meetings with CE Dwarka DDA in the past but could not achieve any tangible result."
Anil Parashar, Chairman of Green Circle, Dwarka, says, "There are many water bodies in Dwarka sector 22,23,7, sector 12 and in and around villages. Most of them are in a neglected state. The government has turned a deaf ear. It was due to constant efforts of the residents and mission clean Dwarka which highlighted the pathetic condition of water bodies that we were able to revive a few water bodies."
Ravi Jaitley, Resident of Dwarka sector-7 & General secretary of Senior hub Dwarka, says, "There are dozens of Water Bodies in Dwarka. There are 3 itself in sector 7 that I know of and visit. One such water body has been encroached by local shops and pucca houses built near it. The other 2 are in a neglected state. The plight of which was being highlighted by various social activists and NGOs with a demand for their revival.”
Ramesh Mumukushu, Residents of Dwarka and Social activist, says "There are a large number of water bodies in the villages of Dwarka which we used to call 'johad' but with the 'development' of the sub-city, we forgot their importance. Almost all sources of water have been cut down or disturbed. Now if the government wishes to revive it for this entire catchment, it will be difficult. All sewerage systems should be stopped going into drain or water bodies."
Finally, Diwan Singh says, "One needs to rethink all rainwater harvesting projects. Lakes are one of the most effective ways of rainwater harvesting. The lake in Sector 23 alone has recharged around 1 crore litres of water,” says, Diwan Singh.
“Reviving these water bodies will help the falling groundwater table in the area return to normal once again," he added.