Delhi’s water mafia

As Delhi labours under relentless 45 degree heat, the availability of water is as ever, a battleground. According to India Today (quoting an investigation by The Mail) reporters have uncovered a nexus of corrupt Delhi Jal Board (the local authority that looks after water in the city) employees and private tanker operators offering water for sale at inflated prices. Delhi, like many Developing World cities has a particularly rickety infrastructure when in comes to water supply. Illegal drilling of underground aquifers and horrendous pollution mean that at the best of times water supply is erratic. Add in seemingly endless low-level corruption and you have a perfect storm. I made a film about Delhi’s water wars a couple of years ago for Channel 4. You can see it here. As I said at the time, for the middle classes, access to water is an expensive and miserable inconvenience but to the poor and the slum dwellers, it is literally a daily fight. As my images show…


India – New Delhi – Slum dwellers scramble for water in Jai Hind Camp. The camp is home to perhaps 3000-4000 migrant workers from all over India. It has no water supplies at all so once a day, the Municipal JAL Board truck delivers some water. There is never enough for the expanding population to go around and some are left with nothing.


India – New Delhi – Women at the Kusumpur Pahari slum fight for water after a tanker delivery. Built more than thirty years ago the slum has no running water or sewage facilities. The only water supply come from the Municipal JAL Board water trucks that visit several times a day. The deliveries are supposed to be free but in reality, residents must pay bribes to have the water delivered.


India – New Delhi – A woman pushes her bike home after filling many cans from a water tanker in Kusumpur Pahari.


India – New Delhi – Middle class housewives in the Vasant Kunj area wait for water to be pumped into their water tanks from a JAL Board tanker. Vasant Kunj is one of many places in New Delhi that has frequent loss of mains water and relies on such infrequent tanker deliveries