Between February 2013 and March 2014, water authority recorded 271 cases

Inspections by the Non-Revenue Water Management (NRWM) wing of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) between February 2013 and March 14 this year have revealed 271 cases of water theft.

According to official records, the city recorded nearly 160 water theft cases between June 2012 and January last year. Records point out that 85 of the total 271 water thefts in the city fall under the ‘major offences’ category (water supply disconnected and penalty imposed).

The NRWM unit has imposed a penalty of around Rs. 28.5 lakh on violators. This includes Rs. 11.40 lakh fine remitted by a leading car dealer at Maradu for drawing water from an illegal connection to run a service centre.

Curiously, water theft is up in the domestic connection category since February last year. People stealing water from public taps have gone up drastically, forcing KWA to seal nearly 20 such connections in the city over the last one year. Over 70 water meters were sealed after installation to check tampering.

According to a report filed at the KWA headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram by the Kochi NRWM unit, a house owner had permitted nearly eight families from outside the State to stay on rent at his moderate house in Kadavanthra but had no intention to foot the actual water bill. Instead, he tapped into the line ahead of the meter and filled the overhead tanker using a motor pump set.

Even though water theft is up among domestic consumers, those in the non-domestic category also figure among the violators. A surprise inspection at a leading hotel in Kaloor found that billing was done for average 100 kilolitres bi-monthly for several months. The tampered meter was replaced and the new equipment revealed that the consumption was around 1,000 kilolitres. With the tampered meter, the water bill assessed by KWA was only Rs. 1,250 monthly against the ‘actual usage’ that came to around Rs. 28,000.

A senior official admitted that those involved in tampering meter and stealing water could not do it without the support of a section of KWA officials and licensed plumbers in the city.

Recalling an incident, the official said a hotel near Ravipuram had to pay money for consumption of only 60 kilolitres while a small shop adjacent to it was billed for using 50 kilo litres bi-monthly. Investigations found that meter was tampered with and the original usage recorded was nearly 279.5 kilolitres against the previous 60 kilolitres.

However, the NRWM unit gets little support to crack down on those stealing water owing to serious staff crunch and lack of basic facilities like an official vehicle to carry out regular and extensive raids in Ernakulam.

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