Gurgaon, India's mini -Singapore is living on borrowed time. In four years, the glistening high-rise buildings which host swish penthouses and offices of multi-national companies, may find themselves without any ground water.
Hidden away in the basements of these buildings are underground borewells, many going 300 feet below the earth. Daily, these pumps bring up thousands of liters of ground water to water the manicured lawns, jacuzzis and fountains.
"Unfortunately ground water is like a bank, and while we are withdrawing everything we aren't putting anything back, soon enough the bank is going to collapse" says Col Sharma, a resident of Gurgaon who has been working to conserve water.
Last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court banned the use of ground water for construction.
Nobody seems to care.
There are hundreds of big projects under construction. At most, ground water is drained and diverted into sewage or other drains, to ensure that basements, when built, will be safe from seepage. Water that is needed at these construction sites is bought from private tankers who are illegally sucking out ground water using borewells.
We travelled to Sector 103 on the upcoming Dwarka-Gurgaon Expressway. Tents with huge banners promoting upcoming projects dot the entire expressway still under construction.
At one end of the highway, we come across a huge excavated pit, where Magic Eye Builders are making a commercial building. Huge blue and green pipes snake out of the pit. There are more than a dozen such pipes. We trace a few of the pipes and discover that they all suck out the ground water and channel it into a huge drain. The water that's taken out is not recycled or used in anyway.
A few kilometers away, we come across another project by Ansals Builders. Here too we see at least four such underground pumps, extracting water, this time dumping it into a huge pond outside. The builders at the site refuse to talk on camera but tell us that the water is actually sewage from the site. It's a specious claim as not a single flat is ready, so where is this sewage coming from? And why is the water clean and clear? Again, the builders have no answers.
It gets worse. We stop several private water suppliers whose tankers bring water to the construction sites. We ask them what it will cost to get clear water for construction. The rate is anything between Rs 800 to Rs 1200. "Buy more tankers and get a cheaper rate," they add. Ground water for construction is banned but money can easily help circumvent the law.
As we're about to leave, we ask one tanker operator where he gets his water from. He replies, "From a secure underground well in Gurgaon's sector 15."