24×7 metered water supply will be cheaper for Ahmedabad

DNA SYNDICATION | January 19, 2015 

“There is no reason why the Ahmedabad cannot have a cheaper and more efficient system like the 24×7 metered water supply,” said Prof Asit Biswas, one of the world’s leading authorities on water and environment management and former adviser to the government of Gujarat on issues of water management.

During a visit to the city to speak at the seminar on ‘Water Security, Climate Change and Sustainable Development’ at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Business Summit on Monday, Prof Biswas strongly propagated the need for all urban development authorities of India to develop a model to supply clean drinkable tap water to the citizens.

“A city like Ahmedabad can easily be a trail blazer in this. A citizen spends approximately Rs250 per month in addition to whatever charges the municipal corporation collects, to make the water supplied drinkable. The water supplied needs to be pumped and stored in overhead tanks and extracted on need basis, which incurs electricity cost. Maintenance of the tank is an added expenditure and that of the water purifier in each house should be added to it. As against this, if the Corporation has to supply clean metered water 24×7, and the citizen pays as much as he uses, he would not incur more than Rs200 per month,” he explained. Moreover, the cost of supplying clean water eliminates the health risks of citizens, reducing the state’s bill on health infrastructure, not to mention the massive reduction in waste of water in the current context, he added.

Interestingly, he said government‐run bodies in developing countries, some much less developed than India and Gujarat in particular, have successfully executed 24×7 clean, metered water supply. “There is no need to study American and European countries as their conditions are different. Instead look at excellent examples of Phnom Penh and Costa Rica whose 24×7 water supply is totally operated by government bodies. In fact I have noticed that public sector water suppliers are more efficient,” said Prof Biswas, who is a visiting faculty at the National University of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

One of the biggest arguments against metered water supply is what activists dub the ‘threat of privatisation’ of this essential commodity, making the lower income groups extremely vulnerable to exploitation. “Privatisation is not a must, the argument is more ideological. An effective individual with strong will and vision in a government body is equally capable of putting this system in place; Phnom Penh is a case in point.

Privatisation can be equally successful if there is a strong regulatory body. London, Los Angeles, Paris, Casablanca are privatised with excellent regulatory bodies. It’s all about the government’s and politicians’ willingness to change their mindsets,” he asserted.

Water management‐ still a crisis

‘Thousands have lived without love, but none without water,’ English poet WH Auden has noted UN estimates show that drought is the world’s costliest natural disaster, inflicting around $6‐8 billion annual damages In many countries, costs of poor water management are now approaching 5% of GDP 2/3 of Fortune 500 companies consider water a substantial business risk.

This article was published by DNA SYNDICATION, January 19, 2015.