Minister for Water Resources P.J. Joseph told the Assembly on Wednesday that there would not be any steep increase in water charges.
Replying to the debate on the demands for grants for Water Supply and Sanitation and Irrigation, the Minister said that a proposal by the Kerala Water Authority, for raising water charges, was before the government.
The cost of producing drinking water had gone up, and higher revenues were needed for the authority to take up new projects. Consumers using up to 5,000 kilolitres a month were now paying only Rs.20, a rate fixed in 1999.
Mr. Joseph announced that water supply schemes costing Rs.360 crore would be taken up this year. Other projects costing Rs.300 crore, to be funded by NABARD, were also on the anvil. An integrated water supply scheme would be taken up for Kuttanad at a cost of Rs.424 crore.
The per capita availability of water in 22 municipalities in the State was only 22 litres a day against the minimum requirement of 70 litres. Projects for augmentation of water supply had been initiated in municipalities such as Alappuzha, Perinthalmanna, and Guruvayoor under the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT). Funding from Asian Development would be sought for augmentation schemes in other municipalities.
About 12 lakh of 60 lakh families in the State now had piped water supply. This could be doubled in the next five years. The Japan International Cooperation Agency-funded projects would add four lakh connections. Of them, the Cherthala project could be commissioned in December and the Pattuvam project in March next year. The commissioning of Kozhikode project would be delayed up to 2013 owing to problems that necessitated shifting of intake location.
He said that the ongoing major irrigation projects such as Karappuzha, Banasura Sagar, Muvattupuzha Valley and Edamalayar would need additional funding. The government hoped to complete them in the next five years. NABARD assistance would be sought for maintenance of canals of completed major irrigation projects.
The Minister said that State government had submitted a memorandum to the Centre urging that the development of waterways between Thiruvanathapuram and Kollam; and Kottappuram and Neeleswaram as national waterways. Once they are thus developed, 3,000 tonne barges could be operated through the canals.
He said an expert committee had been constituted to look into the proposed Meenachil project. A decision would be taken on the project on the basis of its report. The proposal for setting up a plant for bottling of drinking water was being speeded up.
He said that the government would reply to the query from the Central government on the Bill, seeking to provide for compensation to people affected by the Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada, after obtaining legal opinion from the Advocate General. The Law Department had held that the State government had powers under the Constitution to set up tribunals to resolve disputes and claims.
Referring to concerns expressed by members over sea erosion, the Minister said that a Rs.1,950-crore project had been submitted to Centre for erecting ‘pulimuts' to prevent erosion. Besides, geotubes were proposed to be used on three stretches to check erosion on an experimental basis.
After the Ministers' reply, the House passed the demands for grants totalling Rs. 874 crore for 72 votes against 67.
Keywords: water charges