Though officials are not in favour of the populist scheme, they are left with no option after Labour Minister D. Nagender pitched for the Delhi model
Supplying free water, Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) officials say, is not based on sound economics. Particularly for Hyderabad, where the Board is struggling to come out of the red, it will spell doom.
“If the government takes care of salaries, electricity bills and ensures that the GHMC pays 25 per cent of the property tax share to the Board, we can consider supplying free water,” an official remarked.
Yet the Board is exploring the possibilities of taking a leaf from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Though officials are not in favour of the populist scheme, they are left with no option after Labour Minister D. Nagender pitched for the Delhi model.
“We will study how the scheme is being implemented in New Delhi. It is for the government to decide,” remarked a senior official, revealing that a team was sent to study the pros and cons of the free water programme being implemented there.
Recovery of dues
The AAP scheme will surely throw a spanner in the works for the Water Board.
The efforts being made by it to coax the consumers to clear the arrears will come to naught. After invocation of the Revenue Recovery Act, serving of Red Notices and disconnection drive many consumers have started paying up. But now they will simply cease to pay, they fear.
The Board incurs production cost of Rs. 37 per kilo litre of water and it keeps shooting up with the rise in the power tariff.
Heavy burden on revenues
Unlike New Delhi, water supply here involves three stages of pumping since the sources are a good 100 km away. This puts a heavy burden on the revenues with power charges alone constituting bulk of the total operational expenditure.
Its power bill has shot up from Rs. 35 crore to Rs. 55 crore per month after the A.P. Electricity Regulatory Commission had raised the power tariff. As against the revenue of Rs. 63 crore per month the Board’s overheads run into Rs. 93 crore.
Deficit may spiral
As it is, the Board has staggering dues of Rs. 800 crore from non-governmental sector – both domestic and commercial. The government departments alone owe Rs. 189 crore.
“If water is to be supplied free the deficit will only increase,” officials say. The 667 litres per day per household being supplied by the New Delhi administration is sufficient for a family of five.
According to the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation norms each person should get 150 LPCD water. But this standard is hardly adhered to, officials admit.