Khandwa is an obscure town of Madhya Pradesh. It has never been in news. There have not been any reason for that either apart form the fact that this town has produced legendary playback singers as late Kishore Kumar and Shaan. But unprecedentedly Khandwa is at centre stage this time as it is the first town about to embrace privatised water supply system. It has made to news due to this water project which in its spirit is aimed at increasing pipelined water supplies but instead is plundering ecosystem and pockets.
The Khandwa Water Supply Augmentation project has been started by Centres Urban Ministry under UIDSSMT: Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Town . Under this scheme the cost of the project is borne in following distribution:80% center 10% state 10%local body. This project is of Rs 102. 67 crore Rs 10 .2 crore of which has to borne by local civic body,Khandwa Nagar Nigam. But since most local civic bodies do not have such huge funds available,they are allowed to use PPP(Public Private Partnership) mode to generate their share of money. Vishwa Utilities Private Limited ,a Hyderabad based company has been contracted for the local bodies’ share in the project and is executing it.
Daily water requirement of Khandwa is 29 million litre of which 17 million litres is supplied from the nearby dams and borewells. there is a shortage of 12 Million Litre per day. the project aims at providing water to the town by pumping water form 52 km away Indira Sagar Dam,built on Choti Tawa River(tributory of Narmada). But the incomprehensible part of otherwise perfect project is that instead of augmenting the suppies,the project conceives of being the sole supplier by shutting down the existing successful system. This defies all logic as the arrangement accounts for 60% supply of the requirement duirng peak summer.
The existing arrangement supplies water from the Sukta dam and Nagchun Dam(both at a 5 to 10 km distance from the city) which are located at height. They effectively use gravity to supply to overhead tanks and spare the use of electric pump heavily.
The new arrangement will be a collosal wastage of electricity and other scarce resources. Electricity required will be way greater than current requirement as regular supply of water is mandatory from 52 kms away rather than 5 kms.
The terms under which Vishwa Bharati has been given contract are nothing close to being fair for the people of Khandwa. They are attrocious and against the interest of the people. The contract gives the company 23 years of complete monopoly on the water supply system as it states that ” no parallel supply system will be allowed to operate” and there will be” no provision for non-revenue generating water sources”. Before the supply begins a contract will be have to be signed by the resident after paying rs 2500 for connection which holds people accountable for -any damage of the pipeline,pilferage of the pipeline and contamination of water. People will have to pay for whole process of laying pipes(this includes road cutting and road relaying). And hold your breath for this one -people will have no right to approach any court for redressal of grievances related to water supply.
Stated plainly the clauses will mean that the poor(and i dont mean only those who are unable to manage Rs 32 daily) will now have to either pay 11.95 per kilolitre or live(rather die)thirsty as this bans all free public water sources(yes community taps,tubewells & hanpumps too)under ” non-revenue generating” dictum and charge for them too. Instead of paying the municipal corporation Rs100 per months people will have to pay over Rs 1000 for monthly water supply.
An NGO,Manthan Aadhyan Kendra’s study revealed that the project would not have been needed at all for atleast a decade if the Khandwa Nagar Nigam had repaired a few pipes and layed some new ones. The cost would have been only a couple of crore,over 100 times less than what has been is being and will be spent.
There are views that the new project would destroy natural sources of water lead to drying of water catchement areas leading to degradation of the environment lowering of groundwater level. This may give new land for commercial ventures of uber-rich but this will be incalculable loss for the local residents and the future generations to come there.
The ruckus over usage of substandard pipes and other financial irregularities created buzz and an investigating team of Ministry of Urban Development visited the site. After finding discrepancies,it had asked State government to withhold the fund but then also funds were made available,and the project executed.
It is often heard that third world war will be for water,have you ever doubted it? Well lets stop doubting,if we go on doing something as foolish as destroying water resources due to short-sighted-greed of few,we are well on road to destroying our own resources. This is a dangerous precursor of a world were potable water will be traded. In that world the warm countries like ours will be at a huge disadvantage. We will have to trade gold for water.
Well,that seems like too much in future but atleast the act of offering water to strangers or guests would be lost and we might be washing with branded water in a few decade.
People have been vexed and are against it. But if this project is implemented it will be disastrous and will provide a wrong precedent to other PPP mode project being executed. (There are 999 PPP projects under UIDSSMT and out of them 524 are water related!). Khandwa has 71% literate population. They are not against privatisation but they won’t tolerate these biased terms either. it will be interesting to see how they combat this civilisation-threating-privatisation. I will personally be happy if the contract is revoked and those who laid down the terms be prosecuted and convicted. That will be some precedent for rest of the PPP model money launderers!
Tapping Profit by Purnima S Tripathi,Frontline August 24,2012