An ‘experienced private agency’ to be given the responsibility

Residents of the city will soon have their drinking water consumption metered if the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation manages to implement an ambitious proposal to fix and operationalise water meters.

While approving a revision in the water tax, the Corporation Council at its meeting on Tuesday gave its nod for an official resolution proposing the hiring of a private agency to supply, fix, and maintain meters for all drinking water connections in the city.

However, a similar proposal mooted a few years ago failed to take off and it remains to be seen whether the civic body will go the distance this time. Contrary to the claims of the corporation, a majority of the 93,732 domestic water connections in the city do not have functional meters. Many household connections, especially those given decades ago, do not have meters at all.

There are about 1,653 connections under the non-domestic/industrial categories which too do not have proper meter systems. Although the civic body regularly fixes the water charges based on a metering system, the minimum charges stipulated on tap basis are usually collected.

In 2004 and prior to that, the corporation proposed privatising the distribution network with a metered system of supply.

The civic body had then contended that only through privatisation, the metering system could be implemented effectively as it did not have the manpower to take the readings of the water meters.

In a slight modification over this, the latest proposal seeks to hire an “experienced private agency” to supply, fix, and maintain the water meters. The agency will take the readings through its own staff and issue the demand notices to the consumers.

Civic officials argue that it was time the city had a metering system to restrict the use of drinking water for other household purposes such as washing and even watering the gardens.

“In the absence of any metering system and the liability of having to pay up in proportion to their consumption levels, many consumers tend to misuse the drinking water supplied by the civic body. This is truer in places where consumers get abundant supply everyday even while some parts of the city get water supply only on alternative days.

For instance, in many of the old city limits the per capita supply a day is about 100 litres while in many other places such as the newly added wards it ranges from 40 to 70 litres,” says a corporation official. The introduction of a system would put the onus on the consumers and ensure judicious use of drinking water, he said. It remains to be seen whether the corporation will be able to give shape to the proposal as ultimately it would require much political will. Some of the senior and former Corporation councillors are sceptical about the move and feel that the corporation just wants to go on record to show funding agencies that they were working towards metering the water supplied to residents.

If the proposal goes through, domestic consumers will be charged the minimum of Rs. 125 for consumption up to 10,000 litres a month. They would have to shell out Rs. 12.50 for every additional 1,000 litres.

Hike in charges

The council has approved an increase in the charges for water purchased by residents or institutions in tankers, both corporation owned or private.

For water supplied through corporation tankers the charge for a trip up to five km has been fixed at Rs. 1,000. The charge will be Rs. 1,500 for trips beyond five km and Rs. 2,000 beyond corporation limits. Private water tankers filling up from corporation sources will have to pay Rs. 200 a trip.