Sunday, October 01, 2006

Whenever the noise about Russian vs Ukrainian languages becomes unbearable, I think about India and its official languages: Hindi, Sanskrit, English, Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Maithili, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

And now there's a New York Times piece about the water situation in New Delhi:

[...] New Delhi’s water woes are typical of those of many Indian cities. Nationwide, the urban water distribution network is in such disrepair that no city can provide water from the public tap for more than a few hours a day.

An even bigger problem than demand is disposal. New Delhi can neither quench its thirst, nor adequately get rid of the ever bigger heaps of sewage that it produces. Some 45 percent of the population is not connected to the public sewerage system.

Those issues are amplified nationwide. More than 700 million Indians, or roughly two-thirds of the population, do not have adequate sanitation. Largely for lack of clean water, 2.1 million children under the age of 5 die each year, according to the United Nations.


The fabled Yamuna River, on whose banks this city was born more than 2,000 years ago, is a case study in the water management crisis confronting India.

In Hindu mythology, the Yamuna is considered to be a river that fell from heaven to earth. Today, it is a foul portrait of crippled infrastructure — and yet, still worshiped. From the bridges that soar across the river, the faithful toss coins and sweets, lovingly wrapped in plastic. They scatter the ashes of their dead.

In New Delhi the Yamuna itself is clinically dead.

As the Yamuna enters the capital, still relatively clean from its 246-mile descent from atop the Himalayas, the city’s public water agency, the New Delhi Jal Board, extracts 229 million gallons every day from the river, its largest single source of drinking water.

As the Yamuna leaves the city, it becomes the principal drain for New Delhi’s waste. Residents pour 950 million gallons of sewage into the river each day.

Coursing through the capital, the river becomes a noxious black thread. Clumps of raw sewage float on top. Methane gas gurgles on the surface.

It is hardly safe for fish, let alone bathing or drinking. A government audit found last year that the level of fecal coliform, one measure of filth, in the Yamuna was 100,000 times the safe limit for bathing.


New Delhi’s population, now 16 million, has expanded by roughly 41 percent in the last 15 years, officials estimate. As the number of people living — and defecating — in the city soars, on average more than half of the sewage they pour into the river goes untreated. [...]

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