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"Sonia Vihar water treatment plant on the verge of getting rusted''

Sujay Mehdudia

Chief Secretary non-committal about the release of water

NEW DELHI: It is a classic case of public money going down the drain with no one being held accountable. The Rs. 880-crore 140-million-gallons-a-day (MGD) Sonia Vihar water treatment plant seems yet another scandal waiting to happen with even Ministers in the Sheila Dikshit Cabinet now asking questions about the future of the plant.

It is learnt that at a recent Cabinet meeting, a senior Minister sought to know from the Chief Secretary, S. Regunathan, when water from Uttar Pradesh will start flowing into the Sonia Vihar plant. The Chief Secretary was non-committal about the date for release of water or when things will actually concretise. When the Minister again posed the question, an irked Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is learnt to have replied that no firm deadline could be given and that everybody was hopeful that things would work out.

Officials in the Delhi Jal Board are of the view that the Sonia Vihar plant is on the verge of getting rusted. The flow of water early this year had enabled flushing of the plant and pipelines, but the failure to get water from Haryana or Uttar Pradesh thereafter has made things worse. Now the plant and the pipelines are learnt to have developed rust at various points.

In fact, officials are of the view that it would be difficult to ensure safe drinking water from the plant even if water supply is resumed as the rust could cause problems like contamination of water. "It is scandalous that a plant that was planned with a investment of Rs. 250 crores in 2000 ended up being constructed for Rs. 880 crores. There is no explanation why such a huge jump in cost factor took place. Now there is nobody to explain why water is not flowing. Ms. Dikshit continues to give assurances inside and outside the Delhi Assembly but nothing seems to be moving,'' a senior Minister remarked.

Interestingly, a few months ago Mr. Regunathan had quoted the U.P. Chief Secretary as having assured him that water had been released and would reach Delhi within 48 hours. However, the U.P. Government immediately denied having given any such assurance.

The BJP MLA, Vijay Jolly, who also moved a privilege motion against Ms. Dikshit on the issue, said there was more to it than meets the eye. "Ms. Dikshit needs to answer to the people of Delhi why she constructed such a huge plant at public cost when there was no written agreement for raw water with any State. It seems the plant was built to oblige a multinational company and not to benefit the people of Delhi,'' he added.

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