Below the mark

Revised water rates for Delhi

Published: Saturday 30 April 2005

Above 31 kl (instead of 41 kl), the charge will now be Rs 10 per kl. According to djb officials, "Most of the consumers in Delhi use 15-30 kl water per month."

The fac in the earlier revision varied from Rs 40-150 depending on the plot/apartment area. This worked against the poor whose consumption was often below 6 kl (see Eyewash, Down To Earth, December 31, 2004) and was widely opposed. The latest revision has reduced fac categories from five to two -- Rs 40 will be charged for plots up to 200 square metres and Rs 120 for those measuring more. Explains Ashish Kundra, additional chief executive officer, djb , "With many sub-categories within domestic segment, billing was problematic." Besides, the revision of fac will not affect djb's revenue because the slabs and unit rates have also been restructured, he adds.

However, for consumption up to 6 kl, fac still needs rationalisation. In Durban, South Africa, from where djb got the idea of "6 kl free water", there is no fac and each household has a legal right to 6 kl free water per month. But in Delhi and other cities such as Chennai and Bangalore, those consuming up to 6 kl pay more (considering the unit rate) than those in higher slabs (see graph: Use more, pay more).

Says D M Narang, President, Old Rajendra Nagar Resident Welfare Association, "Our fight is against the lack of transparency in fixing fac/service charges." Retorts Kundra, "Service charge is nothing but the maintenance charge of the distribution network."

Surprisingly, two water-guzzling areas -- the New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment -- are being charged a flat Rs 5 per kl. Kundra justifies this saying they have their own distribution network.

Service any better? "Only bills have increased threefold, not the water availability," says Narang. But the bills, too, are plagued with irregularities (see graph: Chaotic charges). A few bills that Down To Earth got hold of had no information on the new rates. Though fac was compulsory, it wasn't charged in places such as Pul Pehladpur. Even the slabs differed with location. For instance, in Pul Pehladpur the slab was 30 kl instead of 10 kl.

Another major problem is metering. Says Kundra, "Out of 10.3 lakh domestic connections, about 77 per cent are metered but only 30-40 per cent meters are working. " In such a situation, billing is often based on an average use calculated for a household irrespective of whether it has 2 or 10 members. Rues Narang, "Even the working meters are not read."

Meanwhile, djb has extended the deadline for installation of metres from April 1 to September 30. Any of the 9 brands djb has approved can be used, says Kundra. If strictly implemented, the new water pricing could promote judicious use. But, djb will also have to improve its service and plug the leakages amounting to 25 per cent of the city's water.

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