Blueprint for DJB privatisation?

The proposed Delhi Water Supply and Sewage project -- which will be funded by the World Bank and whose draft has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a professional services firm, has fuelled speculation about the privatisation of the Delhi Jal Board

 
Published: Saturday 31 May 2003

the proposed Delhi Water Supply and Sewage project -- which will be funded by the World Bank (wb) and whose draft has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a professional services firm fuelled speculation about the privatisation of the Delhi Jal Board (djb). But chief minister (cm) Sheila Dikshit has dismissed these notions as mere rumours. "There is no move to either privatise the djb, or raise water tariff; only some restructuring is taking place," she asserted.

The draft lays down proposals for division of functions related to treatment, distribution and transmission of water. This division will facilitate the handing over of these functions to private companies.

"Though the draft has been tabled for deliberation by the djb, it has not been approved yet," says Puneet Goel, secretary, djb and project manager. However, out of the institutional reforms suggested in the document, the djb is going ahead with restructuring of the board, realignment of the zones and setting up of a regulatory commission to look into the water tariff structure. The existing 12 water zones, 30 revenue zones and nine sewage zones will be merged to form 21 zones in eight police districts. "This will help coordinate djb's functions better," opines Sunil Kunwar from the Delhi School of Economics.

The cm may have ruled out a tariff hike, but the fact is that existing rates are abysmally low. At present, the lowest water tariff is 35 paise per kilolitre for domestic usage, Rs 5 for commercial purposes and Rs 8 for industrial applications. It costs the city's public utility board between Rs 9 and Rs 10 per kilolitre to treat and distribute water. Though the board's annual revenue generation is Rs 220 crore, the annual revenue expenditure works out to Rs 480 crore.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Jal Board (Amendment) Bill has been approved by the state cabinet. This bill empowers the djb to levy taxes for groundwater extraction in all parts of Delhi except for the New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Cantonment areas. The bill, which will amend the present djb act is yet to be ratified by the state assembly.

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