Smriti Kak Ramachandran

NEW DELHI: Unable to procure water meters from the domestic market, the Delhi Jal Board is now tapping foreign companies for supplying the measuring device. And if the negotiations under way are successful, consumers in the city could soon boast of water meters made in Europe.

The Jal Board has been enforcing the use of meters to check its spiralling financial losses. In the absence of functional meters most domestic connections were being billed at a flat rate of 20 kilolitres per month.

“The old practice resulted in severe losses and the Jal Board decided to press for the mandatory use of water meters,” said a senior official.

The Jal Board and consumers are, however, in a fix since the companies that manufacture the meters are unable to cope with the heavy demand. The deadline for installation of new meters has been extended twice over from December 31 in 2009 to January 31 and now to March 31.

“Negotiations on”

Jal Board Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Negi admitted that getting meters locally has proved to be a challenge. “We are in talks with several European companies for providing us with meters that match our standards. One company has agreed to set up its office in Pune and negotiations with the others are under way,” he said.

There are about 8 lakh meters that need to be supplied. “Indian companies can meet the demand of about 50,000 meters a month; at that rate we will be able to complete the process in 13 months, which is why we are now looking at European providers,” Mr. Negi said.

The meters of European make will be competitively priced. “They will be in the range of Rs.800 to Rs.1,500, which will be in the same band as the Indian-made ones,” said Mr. Negi.

The Jal Board had earlier specified that only ISI-marked meters with multi-jet facility would be allowed.

It has also cautioned that consumers who fail to get their meters installed will have to pay their bills drawn on the basis of the last paid bill when the meter was functional. At present the city has around 17 lakh authorised connections and over 5 lakh connections are being charged on the average consumption basis, which has resulted in heavy losses for the water utility.