Decentralising supply

Finding it difficult to cope with frequently interrupted and extremely poor quality of water supplied by the government, a Haryana village privatises its water supply

 
By Binayak Das, Binayak Das
Published: Wednesday 31 October 2001

Decentralising supply

 Raised pipelines help in equa (Credit: Photographs: Binayak Das / cse) Disillusioned by the efforts of the government at providing the very basic amenities, individuals and cooperatives in some hamlets of Jhajjar district in Haryana have streamlined their own resources for supplying drinking water -- albeit for a price.

The farmers from these villages decided to take the matter in their own hands when they found it difficult to cope with frequently interrupted and extremely poor quality of water supplied to them by the government. The move towards private water supply was initiated by villagers of Bupenia who found water from a bore well in agricultural fields to be a better option than either the groundwater in the village which was hard or the bacteria-laden water drawn from government pipelines.

"We decided to make it a no-profit no-loss system by providing water connection to those who want it,' says Sultan Singh who initiated the system after he saw it run successfully at a relative's place in Narigaon in Sonepat. With an initial investment of Rs 4 lakh, Sultan alongwith his brother Mahavir, decided to drill borewells from where good quality groundwater could be made available. The water was then extracted with the help of pumps and supplied directly to houses through pipelines.

Taking cue, about 20 villages in Jhajjar have now dug borewells, and installed a motor pump in the agricultural fields where the water is diverted to village houses with the help of pumps. "Any one who demands water is provided with our service," says Sultan.

For the installation of pipeline to the individual's house, Sultan charges Rs 3,000 as installation fee. Every month the consumers pay him Rs 50 as service and maintenance charge. At a fixed time, water is distributed for 45 minutes in the morning as well as in the evening.

In order to have equal distribution of water, the supply pipes are raised to a height of 6.5 metres and then connected to the tank. "This ensures a level where water is equally distributed to all houses," says Sultan. To treat the water especially during the rainy season, chlorine is sprayed into the pipeline near the pump through an opening.

Villages like Mehrana have also formed cooperatives to supply water. The service charge varies in different villages. It ranges from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,500 for installation and a monthly charge of Rs 40 to Rs 80 depending on the distance of the user's house from the distribution point. The cooperatives elect their members from amongst the farmers and most of them are registered with the cooperative society. Most of these cooperatives have the support of the gram panchayat (village council). The revolutionary water distribution system appears to have met with the approval of the locals with Rajinder Singh, sub-inspector with the Delhi police and a resident of Bupenia saying, "We will never get any facility better than this."

Even the local district officials endorse it. Virendra Singh working with the zilla panchayat (district council) of Jhajjar says, "It is better to pay Rs 50 per month than to avail the tanker water at Rs 2 per pot, resulting in a bill of Rs 120 per month." Officials in the zilla panchayat feel that even the government should promote such schemes. "It is a better system then the government pipeline scheme and above all, it's cost-effective," adds Vinod Kumar of the department.

Sultan recalls, "When I proposed this idea to the people, they thought I was joking." There was interference from the government and the problem started with the need for electricity to run the pumps. "We had asked for electricity connection and they did not provide the connection," adds Mahavir. Now even when the government has installed an electricity connection, the supply remains erratic. Sultan says, "Whether there is electricity or not, I have assured the customers that they will get water." If there is a failure in power supply, a generator is used.

Sultan is happy about the spread of such a supply system across Jhajjar. "People from Kheda village came and asked us to work there, but I told them that we will only give information and advice and they would have to install and run the system themselves," he says. It worked and now Kheda also has a cooperative that looks after the water supply.

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