The HMWSSB faces financial uncertainty as it grapples with high electricity charges

While everyone is eagerly looking forward to early completion of the the third phase of the Godavari and Krishna drinking water projects, the Water Board (the HMWSSB-Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board) has its own concerns. The cash-strapped Board is worried about the steep rise in its power bill when the twin projects get commissioned.

The board is already reeling under the burden of high electricity charges with 50 per cent of its revenue going towards meeting it. If, and when, the Godavari and Krishna Phase III projects get going, the board’s power bill is expected to swell by another Rs. 40 crore. There is, however, no going back on the projects which are essential to meet the rising water needs of Hyderabad’s urban agglomeration.

As against its monthly revenue of Rs. 58 crore, the board shells down Rs. 33 crore towards power charges. The Krishna Phase I and II alone consume Rs. 25 crore. Since it is all pump based water supply, the Krishna Phase III is expected to increase the power bill by about Rs. 12 crore and Godavari by Rs. 30 crore.

“Unless government comes to our rescue we will not be able to bear this additional burden,” says a senior official.

The mismatch between revenue and expenditure continues.

To add to its financial woes, establishment charges such as salary, pension and allowances take away Rs. 19 crore from the board’s revenue. Besides, repayment of loan obtained for execution of Krishna Phase I, along with interest, accounts for Rs. 6.5 crore a month. All this leaves very little for maintenance works, sources say.

The board could breath easy if it could recover its outstanding dues of Rs. 650 crore. But this is easier said than done as government departments alone owe a whopping Rs. 155 crore as water charges.

Of these, the biggest defaulters are the Panchayati Raj and Rural Water Supply departments. Together, they have to pay Rs. 115 crore. Other major dodgers are Cantonment Board (Rs. 20 crore), Medical and Health department (Rs. 10 crore), Zoo Park (Rs. 1.05 crore). Besides, several government schools and colleges are due about Rs. 4 crore. The IDPL, which has gone sick, owes Rs. 50 crore.

“The matter has been referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction and we don’t know when we will get our dues,” officials say.

Under these circumstances, officials feel the government ought to allow the Board to collect the increased charges from the consumers or at least ask the APCPDCL to levy concessional tariff rate. When the APTRANSCO is permitted to collect the surcharge for the increase in fuel and input costs, why can’t the Water Board do the same, they ask.

More In: Hyderabad