Thousands of Mumbai’s citizens are disconnected from the city’s water supply network. This photo essay reports on the impact of the poor governance of this essential resource on informal urban settlements.

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) maintains one of the most extensive and complex water distribution systems in the world, comprising nearly 20,000 kilometres of pipelines. Yet, the source of the water in the taps and their consumption levels, remain a mystery to most people living in the city.

The MCGM supplies 3.8 billion litres of water daily with a tariff of INR 5 for every 1,000 litres. However, an individual in an informal settlement can receive less than 20 litres daily—which is below the minimum consumption level recommended by WHO. In several informal settlements, 95 percent of all existing households use less than 50 litres per capita per day, increasing the chances of contracting and spreading diseases.

Social differences are reproduced by the accreted laws, policies, and techniques that govern water in the postcolonial city.

In response to a PIL filed by Pani Haq Samiti, a local right to water collective, a 2014 High Court Order promised to provide piped water to those who can prove residence in informal settlements before the year 2000. This promise, however, continues to be largely unmet.

Residents of Geeta Nagar (in south Mumbai) rely on an unknown leakage outlet to wash their clothes. Roughly 27 percent of the city’s water is unaccounted for and lost to leakages, faulty meters, and unauthorised connections. The minimum amount lost monthly is approximately INR 2.5 crore.

It is common practice that water charges in residential societies are shared equally between all members. This practice makes it difficult to establish the relationship between the price paid for water and the quantity used. With over 70 percent meters not working, the billing system heavily relies on estimates.

Read the full article about equal access to water by Suraj Katra at India Development Review.