Dry taps and open sewers: welcome to India's "Millennium City"

Thu Jul 5, 2012 5:19pm EDT
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By Annie Banerji

GURGAON, India (Reuters) - Sarika Kapoor lives in a spacious home in one of the wealthiest cities in India. But something as simple as having a shower is fraught with problems.

Most days there is just a trickle of water from the taps and sometimes even that dries up before noon. The 56-year-old has often had to scurry to a neighbor across a potholed road to borrow a bucket of water and haul it back to her rented $300,000 home, sweat rolling down her face.

"Every morning I have to decide whether I want the upper half of my body clean or my lower half. With the amount of water we get, it's impossible to take a full-body bath," Kapoor said, sitting in her large, well-lit living room.

Welcome to Gurgaon, a city of wealthy urban professionals with gleaming shopping malls, five-star hotels and sprawling golf courses on the southern outskirts of New Delhi that is a symbol of newly affluent India.

But crippling power and water shortages, crater-riddled roads and open sewage drains have made it an extreme example of the poor infrastructure that is constraining growth in Asia's third-largest economy.

"Gurgaon is just a symbol of beautiful buildings. Otherwise it's rubbish," said P.K. Jain, the founder-president of the Gurgaon Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Ultimately, the town is going to collapse."

Alongside the towering residential condominiums are glass and steel office blocks. The India offices of some of the world's best known companies are here, including Microsoft Corp, Google Inc. and agribusiness giant Cargill Inc.

But public infrastructure has failed to keep pace with the rapid growth unleashed by landmark economic reforms in 1991.   Continued...

An auto rickshaw driver waits for the passengers to board, in front of an illuminated commercial complex at Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi June 17, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood