Representatives of residents’ associations have called upon the government to streamline the functioning of Kerala Water Authority (KWA) in the wake of the adverse comments made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) before going ahead with the proposal to hike water tariff for all sections of consumers.

The CAG report, which pointed out deficiencies in resource mobilisation, plugging wastage of potable water, and delay in completing projects that could have helped in augmenting its resources, has come at a time when the KWA is undertaking revision of water tariff.

Paraniyam Devakumar, general secretary of the Federation of Residents’ Associations Trivandrum, said the audit report had brought to light the huge financial loss incurred by the utility owing to the inept handling of its affairs. The report, he said, should be viewed seriously by the government and a course correction should be carried out.

“The government should conduct a study to find out whether the utility’s financial position could be improved by preventing unavoidable loss. The loss incurred due to wastage of water, faulty meters and theft accounts to Rs. 26.76 crore,” he said.

The recent pipe-bursts, he said, had generated doubts in the minds of the people after reports appeared about “collusion between certain officials in the KWA and contractors.” He pointed out that the Upa Lok Ayukta itself had suo motu registered a case relating to the frequent bursts.

Chandrasekharan, a representative of Samajam Lane Residents’ Association, said the hike should not be the first option to improve the financial condition. The people are already burdened with the rise in prices of essential commodities and any further increase in tariff would alter the monthly budget, he added.

Several projects taken up by the KWA are dragging on due to unscientific planning and lack of coordination between government agencies. The delay had escalated project cost, thereby affecting the resources of the water utility, said Sumesh, representative of the Thekkumoodu residents’ association. The task before the government is to put an end to unwanted expenditure and plug revenue loss, he added.

Gopan, who represents Doordarshan Kendram Residents’ Association, said “the present situation of the KWA is not because something has gone wrong very recently. It is the result of years of bad administration. The hike should be effected only after initiating steps to stop frequent pipe-bursts, collect arrears from bulk consumers and provide uninterrupted potable water,” he said.

Tariff to be reworked

The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) has initiated the process to re-work the tariff it worked out two years ago as per the instruction of the State government.

Sources in the KWA told The Hindu that it had earlier proposed 100 per cent increase. For domestic consumers in the 0-5 kilolitre and 5-10 kilolitre consumption categories, who are now charged Rs.20 as the minimum tariff and Rs 4 a kilolitre for excess consumption, the proposal then was to collect a sum of Rs 40 and Rs 8 a kilolitre. The tariff for consumers in the 10-20 kilolitre categories, paying Rs. 40 and Rs 5 a kilolitre, was fixed at Rs 90 and Rs 12 a kilolitre. A senior official with KWA said government direction to revise the tariff was taken after the gap between the average cost and average returns of the utility had gone up from Rs 4.73 a unit in 2012-13 to Rs 6.58 in 2013-14. Moreover, the official said the tariff for domestic consumers was last revised in 1999 and for other categories in 2008.