Forging ties



Informing people
Water play
The facilitator
Water Gala

Faulty perceptions
Thirst rises, patience evaporates


Eviction ordered
Join the BIG fight
Citizens pick up cudgels
Solar lakes

South India: Searching for an identity
Thailand: Then came progress....


An eye opener
Naudihi’s revival
Tankas of Badi Ghodan


Sri Aurobindo Ashram’s system


Rice husk ash filter
Clay pot irrigation


Sachidanand Bharti
Madhu Bhatnagar


Naullahs of Kumaon


Kerala, building up its jalanidhi
Schemes or scams?


Saving lives
Rain associations


Drop by drop
Water scramble


Oxfam and water



100 promises, deadline 2006
The landmarks
Changing currents







Catch Water
Vol. 5                                          No. 2                          April-May 2003

In Focus

User friendly hike

In May 2003, the Punjab government has revised the water and sewerage user charges for next five years in all the five municipal corporations and 137 municipal councils with immediate effect. The measure will raise more than Rs 100 crore annually. The hike in the domestic sector is directly proportional with the size of the landholding. Only the user with a plot of less than one kanal will pay unmetered charges. The rest along with the institutions and commercial sector will be charged as per the meter reading. And, a user with a defective meter will pay three times more. It is widely believed that this hike will improve the economic status of the civic bodies, while checking wastage of water. A user friendly move, in a true sense.

Source: A SPrashar (2003), ‘User charges for water, sewerage up’, The Tribune, Chandigarh, May 5

Faulty perceptions

In most countries, drinking water is supplied by the public sector and, is considered as a non — economic utility — to be supplied free of cost. Further, in a country like India, electoral politics further complicate the issue. And, water tax instead of being used as an economic tool to check wastage of water is reduced to an ineffective gizmo by the state.

For instance, under political pressure, the Indore Municipal Corporation revoked its decision to charge Rs 3,250 to regularise the water connection through public boring. This is not an isolated case. In Delhi, the proposal to raise the water tariff has been stalled, as the state assembly elections are due in November 2003.

Although different state governments have tried to hike the user charges but it has been generally done to compensate for a rise in power tariff like in Faridabad, Haryana. Interestingly, states like West Bengal and Punjab are upgrading the user charges to minimise the subsidy component in the operation and maintenance of the water distribution system. The Punjab government’s move that was applauded in urban centre (See box: User friendly hike) has been receiving strong criticisms from the rural areas. The government hiked the rate of drinking water in villages from Rs 40 to Rs 50 per connection per house at places, where 40 litres of water was supplied per day under a scheme. And, at places, where the scheme was designed to supply 70 litres, Rs 70 is levied. Besides, for using public taps, each household has to pay a monthly cess of Rs 10.

In 2003, West Bengal government announced its water tax collection policy. Both domestic and commercial sector will pay tax according to their wealth tax and the size of the ferrule respectively. This move, according to urban development minister, Ashok Bhattachrya will,"gradually reduce the subsidy component from 70 to 50 per cent and subsequently abolish it. Every municipality will have to generate enough revenue from its users to run the supplies." This move was strongly opposed by the Trinmul Congress, one of the main opposition party in West Bengal. Ironically, many of the serving municipality chairmans elected on Trinmul’s ticket, disagree with their party’s stand.

If we continue to have water free, we shall not be having it for long.

Thirst rises, patience evaporates

For decades, it has been a familiar sight to see women in most parts of rural India trek long distances for a pitcher of water. 56 years after independence, as India begins to get identified as a global IT and nuclear power, similar scenes are being enacted in countless towns and cities.

The situation has turned from bad to worse. Every year, new areas join the list of water scarce zones. In summers, water becomes a law and order problem to be managed by the police. Some such instances this year are:

dot.gif (88 bytes)Koppal district, Karnataka: Irked by acute drinking water shortage in Boodaagumpa village, the residents locked up 14 members of their gram panchayat in the office. As tension mounted, police was called in.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Mysore district, Karnataka: In April, about 15 villagers from Gamanahalli, Mysore, were injured in a fight over using a pond. Here, the problem is not just about water scarcity but of discrimination. Dalits are only allowed to take water for drinking purposes. "We were facing water scarcity. But when we asked them if we could use the pond water for washing clothes they threatened us and beat up our people", said a dalit villager. Discrimination here is an age old problem. But issues like water scarcity can lead to bloodshed.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Nallaspara, Maharashtra: Swete, a sweeper, and his neighbour had dug a borewell. When it did not yield enough water, Swete asked for his money to be returned. But was allegedly attacked. Later, the local political groups gave it a political overtone, turning Nallaspara into a battleground of water wars in April.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: A dispute over drawing water from a handpump led to a clash in which one person was killed and six injured in Koula village, Bhopal. This is the first case of water related violence reported in the district this year.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Guna district, Madhya Pradesh: During a ‘town contact campaign’, organised by the district administration, the police had to intervene, when enraged residents blocked the passage of the officials.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Surendernagar district, Gujarat: Residents from about 36 badly affected villages are up in arms. Reason: a canal carrying thousands of gallons of water from the Narmada river bypasses their locality supplying water to other villages, whereas they remain thirsty.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Delhi: In April, Delhi Police Commissioner RSGupta, identified water as one of the issues that could trigger a major law and order problem for the next few months. And, rightly so. On April 25, about 15 people were reported injured when a water-related fight broke out in Malviya Nagar. These days such fights are a common sight in Delhi. Govindpuri is getting its daily water supply at 2 am and here, small quarrels very often degenerate into major fights.



Copyright CSE  Centre for Science and Environment