Kolkata: The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has agreed to meter household water consumption under pressure from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which is financially assisting the overhauling of the city’s underground piped water distribution network, two officials at the municipal body said.
It will take years but eventually, consumption in each household will be measured, the officials said on condition of anonymity, adding there is no plan immediately to impose any new tax.
Because the move could be seen as a precursor to charging water consumption, there was political resistance to the move from within the ruling Trinamool Congress, according to key leaders of the party, who asked not to be identified.
Still, KMC agreed to the reform to raise financial resources for the much-needed repair of underground water pipes, they added.
In the older part of the city, where the first of these projects is to be implemented, the network dates back to the time the British-ruled India.
KMC recently awarded a six-year contract to Suez Environnement India Ltd for the repair of its piped water distribution network in six wards in the Cossipore neighbourhood of north Kolkata, a project financed by ADB.
As part of the €30 million project, Suez will install or replace 25,000 domestic meters, the company said in a statement. That apart, 25 district metering units are to be installed in the neighbourhood to accurately map wastage or excessive use of water.
According to Suez estimates in a press statement, water loss in the Cossipore neighbourhood due to ageing pipes at a whopping 60%, spread across its 150-km network. The project’s immediate aim is to reduce the leakage and lay the grounds for transition from intermittent to round-the-clock water supply to an estimated 200,000 residents, Suez added.
After overhauling the distribution network, Suez will provide support with operation and maintenance for three years. During this phase, it will “work towards increasing network performance” with the use of modern technology for quick leak detection. It will also help KMC with customer service, according to a company statement on the contract.
KMC will soon award similar contracts to two similar neighbourhoods, the officials cited earlier said.
However, Kolkata mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay told Mint the KMC had on its own decided to install meters to measure water consumption, and that the funding assistance from ADB had nothing to do with it. ADB agreed to lend for the project in recognition of the various development initiatives taken by the state government, he claimed.
Though on completion of these projects, water consumption will be measured in every home, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has “no plans whatsoever” to impose any new tax, he added.
KMC will generate enough revenues from existing taxes to repay ADB’s loan without putting any new burden on citizens of Kolkata, according to Chattopadhyay.
The reform will make water distribution more efficient and lead to substantial savings in operating costs, the KMC officials said. Still, repaying the loan will be a challenge for the municipal body unless it is able to shore up tax revenues, they added.