Bottled water project hits a roadblock

The defunct water purification and bottling plant of the Kochi Water project at Ravipuram.

The defunct water purification and bottling plant of the Kochi Water project at Ravipuram.  


Corporation offered packaged water at ₹1 per litre under ‘Kochi Water’ launched in 2016

Despite being launched with much fanfare, the Kochi Corporation’s project to provide packaged drinking water at ₹1 per litre has failed to surmount obstacles lying in the way of its implementation.

Launched as ‘Kochi Water’ in 2016 in association with the Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation (KSWDC), one purification and bottling plant at Fort Kochi is running below capacity, while one at Edappally and the other at Ravipuram have stopped operations altogether.

“The plants were set up at a cost of ₹25 lakh with the capacity to purify 2,000 litres per hour, drawing water from wells in the area,” said Eby Thomas, managing director of the private firm that set up the plants and was responsible for their maintenance. “The plant at Fort Kochi now runs for only three or four hours a day,” he said.

At Fort Kochi, around 200 cans of 20 litres each were being supplied daily at a price of ₹25 per can, said Sheeba Lal, Fort Kochi Veli councillor. Competition with other packaged drinking water suppliers had turned ugly initially when they tried to peg the water as being of low quality, she said.

Ravipuram and Edappally councillors attribute the operational failure to the absence of willing Kudumbashree groups, who were invited to run the plant and distribute water cans. “Since it was conceived as an entrepreneurship project for women by the KSWDC, the plan was to get a Kudumbashree group with 10 members to conduct operations, sales and distribution. The groups we found initially either broke up or lost interest. We are still on the lookout,” said David Parambithara, Ravipuram councillor. A request was made to employ other societies to handle the distribution but the KSWDC took a firm stand.

The plant at Mamangalam at Edappally ran for a little over a year when the five-member Kudumbashree group that ran it scattered. “It is a great scheme if it is implemented. Drinking water is hardly available at such a low rate. It was being supplied to homes at ₹20 per 20 litres and ₹30 for the same quantity to offices. While it was operational, over a 100 cans were supplied daily to local offices and houses,” said Joseph Alex, Mamangalam councillor.

The group at Edappally had taken a bank loan of ₹10 lakh to purchase cans and a vehicle for distribution. A new group would have to take up the repayment of the loan, and groups were hesitant, said Kochi East Kudumbashree CDS chairperson Anitha Jyothi. When cans were being sold at ₹20, ₹10 would go to the Kudumbashree group and the remaining towards the maintenance of the plant. The amount from the sale was barely sufficient, she said.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 8:39:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/bottled-water-project-hits-a-roadblock/article30142672.ece

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