Delhi to set up regulator to oversee water management

Delhi to set up regulator to oversee water management

New Delhi: The Delhi government will set up a regulator to oversee water management in the city and also plans legislation to check wastage as a precursor to privatizing the resource in the national capital, besides ensuring that it’s priced efficiently.

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit, also the Delhi Jal Board chairperson, said the government was intent on improving the water management system.

“At the moment, Delhi is facing a difficult and critical situation with regard to water. Existing water laws are ambivalent and there is need for a strong legislation," Dikshit said. “We are currently in the process of setting up a water regulatory body on a par with the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission."

While indicating that the government will introduce legislation to curb wastage, Dikshit said there was need to “make people pay for every drop of water they use".

The government plans to privatize water supply to the city’s Malviya Nagar, Vasant Vihar and Nangloi localities as a pilot project. Depending on the success of this, supply to the rest of the city will be privatized in phases.

Delhi will follow Gujarat and Maharashtra, which have partially privatized water supply, mostly in urban areas.

Dikshit said Delhi was in an “odd situation" as most resources are “borrowed" from neighbouring states.

The pricing of the resource is critical, said Delhi chief secretary P.K. Tripathi.

“People have lost their value for water. Law is the only force that can bring back respect for the resource. Unless water is priced, people won’t value it." he said. “Water must be priced on par with electricity and it should not be priced according to the whims and fancies of the public but by an independent regulatory system."

The proposed regulatory body will have to work in sync with various stakeholders such as the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Delhi Jal Board and the Public Works Department to be effective, said Gourisankar Ghosh, chairman of Waterlife, which is involved with the sustainable use of water.

“There should be transparency in the committee for it to work so that the various agencies can function as one," he said.

The Delhi Jal Board needs to improve infrastructure before privatizing the water supply, Ghosh said.

With as much as 70% wasted through leakage in certain areas, the effectiveness of privatization would be diluted if this wasn’t done, he said.

“For the regulatory body to be a successful joint venture, the government should not have a stake in it, the chief minister should not monitor it as the chairman. The central government should be proactive and involve other states like Haryana and Punjab in the realm of the regulatory committee since Delhi receives its water from them," Ghosh said. “It will be an effective tool if it does not function as an appendage of the government."