Imagine waking up one day, getting ready for work, only to find out that there’s no water in your tap? That’s the story of Delhi. In ten years, Delhi has lost half of its lakes and ponds to urbanization, pollution and over-consumption.

Delhi’s water supply is not adequate to meet the demand of its 16 million residents!

According to a survey conducted by the Delhi Jal Board, the water treatment and supply capacity of Delhi, in 2012, was 3,231.9 Million Litres per Day (MLD). However, the water demand of the city, at 3,859 MLD , was much higher – this means that a large number of people in Delhi faced acute water shortage during the year!


  • Unchecked construction projects

  • pollution

  • falling groundwater levels

  • rising population

As real estate and development projects took over wetland areas across the city, more than 50% of the city’s lakes have dried up.

The large amount of domestic and industrial effluents released into wetlands, lakes and ponds has drastically brought down the quality of water.

To make matters worse, excessive, injudicious use of water and a rising population are putting excessive pressure on water resources, leading to an alarming fall in groundwater levels.

When wetlands dry up, so do the groundwater resources that are recharged through them. Presently, the rate at which groundwater is being extracted far exceeds the rate at which it can be replenished.

In some areas of Delhi, the groundwater level has gone down by 20-30 metres – with the rate of decline as high as 1.7 to 2 metres/year!

In Gurgaon too, groundwater levels have been dropping by at least 1 metre every year since the 1980s – leading to a drop of over 40 meters in groundwater levels by 2005-06. The story of other NCR cities is, unfortunately, not very different.


During 1884, Old Delhi (then known as Shahjahanabad) had 607 wells of which 52 provided sweet water. 80% of these wells are now closed since their water has been contaminated by sewage.

Even with sewage treatment plants present across the city, the quality of the treated effluents remains questionable in Delhi-NCR.

In Gurgaon, the sewage generated in the city flows into the Yamuna, further polluting the already dying river. With increasing population and construction projects, the city’s waste problem is only going to get aggravated. In Noida and Ghaziabad, an ever increasing load of liquid and solid waste is flowing into the wetlands of the two cities every day.


In 2011, Delhi boasted a population of 16.75 million . By the year 2025, the population is projected to be 27.982 million!

Delhi’s population is growing at a steady rate. Its wetlands, however, are not.

This means that in a few years, the city will be exerting even more pressure on its finite and (already) over-exploited resources - pushing itself into a much severe water crisis.

Delhi and its people need to take conscious measures in order to ensure that the city does not run out of water.

Currently, Delhi-NCR depends on the Yamuna River, Ganga River (Noida), Hindon River (Ghaziabad) and groundwater sources for its water supply.


The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has recently set up three rainwater harvesting centres to promote water harvesting to fulfill Delhi’s water needs and replenish the dipping water table. These are located in RK Puram, Dwarka and Lajpat Nagar. The Board, plans to open many more such centres in the coming six months.

A recent mandate passed by the Delhi State Government asks owners of properties (built on an area of more than 500 square metres) to install water harvesting systems. This measure can earn property owners a 10% rebate on their water bills. Set to start in 2017, such measures can go a long way in making a difference in helping Delhi tap its rainwater.

However, as great as these steps are, they may not be enough to save Delhi from running dry. The only way out of the crisis is to get involved ourselves.

Click here to see what you can do to help our taps, our wetlands and our cities from running dry!

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Surajpur Wetland

This is an urban wetland in the Yamuna River basin situated near Surajpur village in District Gautam Budh Nagar.

The spot-billed duck, the lesser-whistling duck, the cotton pygmy goose and many more waterfowls come to breed in this wetland, making it a rich bio-diversity spot.

However, chopping of trees in and around the wetland and illegal constructions are some issues that are now plaguing the area. WWF-India, the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA), Uttar Pradesh have come together to restore the area and to turn it into a lively bird sanctuary – setting an example of protection and conservation of biodiversity near urban areas.

Najafgarh Lake

The lake is located near Najafgarh and is connected to the Yamuna River by a natural shallow drain called the Najafgarh Nullah.

It was once, one of the last habitats of the Siberian crane – a bird that is now on the verge of extinction. Other birds too inhabited this area, which was once an extremely rich wetland ecosystem. However, today it is the most polluted water body in urbanised Delhi – partly due to the direct inflow of untreated sewage into it from surrounding colonies.

As the lake is dying, so is the rich bio-diversity that was once supported by it.

Okhla Barrage

The Okhla barrage is situated over the Yamuna River, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

The location of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary , the barrage is a haven for over 300 bird species. The wetland is now one of the 466 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in India!

However, construction projects in the area have destroyed the feeding grounds around the bird sanctuary.

The high tension wires that run all along the boundary of the sanctuary too pose a threat to the survival of the numerous bird species. As a result, the sanctuary is witnessing a lower and lower bird turnout every year.

Dhanauri Wetland

Dhanauri lies in Greater Noida, about 60 km from Delhi. The ecosystem sustained by this wetland consists of thousands of migratory birds such as the Sarus Crane. However, housing projects and other construction activities are forcing these birds to leave the area.

In order to protect the wetland and the bio-diversity supported by it, the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) in 2016 had initiated the process of declaring a 50-acre wetland, (off the 185-km Yamuna Expressway), spread across Dhanauri, Thasrana and Amirpur Bangar villages, a Protected Area. The marshland may soon be developed into a bird sanctuary.

Sanjay Lake

This is an artificial lake developed by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in Trilokpuri in East Delhi, adjoining Mayur Vihar Phase II residential area. Spread over 69 hectares, the lake was developed in the 1970s.

The lake attracts some migratory birds and has many indigenous trees. A well-laid-out fitness track near the lake is also very popular among walking enthusiasts.

Sanjay Lake is fed by rainwater and an excess run-off from a cut in the Hindon River. Initially, the lake covered a larger area, but today it has greatly shrunk in size. The reasons are unauthorized construction, encroachment and sewage from nearby slums .

Bhalswa Jheel

This Jheel was originally known as the Bhalswa Horseshoe Lake – since it was actually shaped like one. However, over the years the lake lost both its name and shape as it was turned into a landfill area.

Now a housing colony has been built on it. This has destroyed the once thriving wetland ecosystem and wildlife habitat that were host to scores of local and migratory wildlife species, especially water birds like storks and cranes.