Water crisis in Delhi, neighborhoods are dry after heat waves

NOS / Aletta Andre

NOS NewsAmended

  • Aletta Andre

    Correspondent India

  • Aletta Andre

    Correspondent India

The Indian capital New Delhi is struggling with a water shortage. It is a result of the heat waves of the past few months. Those started much earlier in the year than usual, which experts attribute to climate change.

Sahin, a 22-year-old mother of three, has been waiting in the street with a bucket since 6 am. She does not know when the government tanker will bring water. “Sometimes it comes early, sometimes late. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

Her family of twelve, with several brothers, sisters-in-law and children, is completely dependent on the tanker. “We have tap water at home, but that hasn’t come for about five days now. Usually we can wash with it, wash clothes and flush the toilet. We then only use the water from the tanker for cooking and drinking. But now we have to we do everything with it.”

Residents of the city are completely dependent on the tanker that supplies them with water and meanwhile the water level of the river has been lowest since 1965:

Water crisis in Delhi: neighborhoods are dry after heat waves

More and more neighborhoods in the Delhi region are getting no or less water from the tap. The city council speaks of a crisis and has asked the neighboring state of Haryana to allow more water to flow from the Yamuna River to Delhi “for humanitarian reasons”. The Yamuna is the main source of Delhi’s water, but is now dry in many parts of the city.

Also next to the hut of fisherman Satnarain Saini. He points to the grass next to the hut. “Normally the water comes this way.” Now it’s almost a hundred yards to his little boat, across a bone-dry, split riverbed.

NOS / Aletta Andre

Fisherman Satnarain in the partly dry riverbed

Due to the premature heat, more water has recently been used than average for drinking, washing and filling water coolers. It has also rained much less in recent months, which is again related to the persistent heat.

Heat records were broken in both March and April. It was also very hot in May and June. In all the months leading up to the monsoon, which starts in July in northern India, only a third of the average amount of rain fell.

Consequences of climate change

For example, countless residents directly experience the consequences of climate change. In March and April it was the farmers who were able to harvest considerably less wheat, and now the residents of Delhi. In the recent report by the UN climate panel IPCC, India was already described as “possibly the most economically affected” by extreme weather.

NOS / Aletta Andre

Local residents fill their buckets with water from the tanker

It seems strange that India in particular resisted the climate summit in Glasgow at the end of last year and insisted that the agreement be adjusted (from phasing out coal to reduced consumption). But India defends its position.

“Europe needs to get rid of the mentality that its problems are of the whole world but the world’s problems are not Europe’s,” Foreign Minister Jaishankar said at a congress in Slovakia. That comment related to the war in Ukraine, but could just as easily have been about climate policy.

In this context, Jaishankar usually speaks of climate justice. At a meeting of emerging economies recently, he emphasized that these countries should push the rich countries for climate action.

‘Right to responsible energy use’

That was also the argument of India’s environment minister in Glasgow. “Developing countries have the right to use fossil fuels responsibly,” said Minister Yadav. He pointed out that the rich countries in particular have caused climate change through their energy consumption. But they fail to financially support poor countries to counter the effects of climate change, he says.

In 2009, it was agreed that rich countries would release $100 billion by 2020 to help developing countries achieve their climate goals. That amount has not materialized.

India also finds it unfair that the Glasgow Agreement mainly talks about coal and not about oil and gas. It is precisely these fossil fuels that are mainly used in the US and Europe. For the time being, India still uses a lot of coal to meet the growing demand for energy.

NOS / Aletta Andre

Sahin with her youngest child

This does not alter the fact that India, in its own words, invests a lot of money in non-fossil energy. 20 percent of all electricity is generated from non-fossil sources and this will increase rapidly in the coming years.

Solar energy plays a major role in this. As the storage becomes easier and less expensive, the share of solar energy in India will increase significantly, and is expected to exceed the share of coal by 2030.

Meanwhile, poor residents like Sahin are most affected by the climate crisis. She struggles to conserve water. “When it’s cold it’s easy not to wash for a few days. In the heat that’s difficult. Sometimes we skip a day, or we don’t wash our clothes, or we don’t fill the water cooler. deny a bath, if they are hot.”

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