Consumer organisations demand public hearing
The Nagpur Municipal Corporation has decided to fully outsource its water supply system from November 15. The contract for supplying water to the city has been given to Orange City Water Supply Company, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) company of Vishwaraj Environment and Veolia Water India. While municipality sources say the move will greatly improve the residents’ access to quality drinking water, consumer organisations are crying foul, saying public opinion has not considered.
Under the new system, the company will be responsible for providing uninterrupted 24-hour water supply in all parts of the city. This will involve managing the entire water supply cycle, including procurement, treatment, storage and distribution. Treatment plants will provide a total of 550 million litres a day (MLD) water for supply to 250,000 households through the city’s 2,100 km water-supply pipelines.
Treatment plants, reservoirs go to operator
All six water treatment plants, Gorewada lake, reservoirs and water supply network will be handed over to the company along with 427 staffers. The company will be paid for its services through NMC’s own company, Nagpur Environment Services Limited (NESL). At present, a work order of Rs 387 crore has already been given to it out of the Rs 615 crore sanctioned to NMC under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURRM).
[related-content] The new company will have to manage the capital expenditure required for repairs, maintenance, refurbishing and replacement of water supply infrastructure in the city. However, overall responsibility of water supply, monitoring and decision-making regarding tariff will rest with NMC, which will also look into grievances regarding water supply and tariff. The civic body is, however, yet to decide on the water tariff under the new scheme, says Shashikant Hastak, chief engineer, water works department, NMC, and executive director of NESL.
'24X7 pilot not successful'
NMC’s decision has come in for severe criticism from consumer organisations which have pooh-poohed NMC’s claim that the its pilot project was ‘successful’. Nagpur’s pilot project in 24x7 water supply was commissioned in Dharampeth zone in 2009. Under the project, water tariff was raised from Rs 3 to Rs 8 per kilolitre, which caused violent public protests. A recent independent study by Administrative State College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad, says that while the operator company is apparently maintaining a 24-hour water supply, the main purpose of the scheme, that people should use fresh water instead of stored water which is prone to contamination, is defeated because the company has not replaced old pipelines, and consumers are still following the old system of storing water. Problems of high billing have also not been solved successfully by the NMC.
Talking to DTE, Rajeev Jagtap of Janmanch, criticised the non-transparent way in which NMC has taken the decision to privatise the entire water supply system. “Before taking this decision, NMC should have held a public hearing in Dharampeth zone,” he says. “Consumer complaints regarding high billing have remained largely unaddressed in the zone.” He says that consumer fora in the city are framing a demand that the privatisation decision be deferred till such a public hearing is held.
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