Trade unions contest water loss of 51% in Kochi as estimated in project report for ADB-funded drinking water project

Published - July 09, 2024 09:15 pm IST - KOCHI

Trade unions that are on the warpath against the proposed Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Kerala Urban Water Services Improvement Project (KUWSIP) have contested the water loss of 51%, dubbed as non-revenue water, in the drinking water supply network in Kochi city as estimated in a detailed project report drawn up by an ADB consultant.

Bringing down the water loss to 20% remains one of the stated goals of the project and the biggest argument thrown around in its favour. However, the trade unions alleged that the estimate had been reached without any scientific study, and it had been significantly highlighted in a booklet brought out by them to present their arguments against the project.

“Notwithstanding the water supplied through public taps [which is not billed] and some probable loss on account of leakage in old pipeline networks, dysfunctional water meters and water theft, the loss would not be as high. Anyway, any such loss can be plugged by the Kerala Water Authority [KWA] at a much lower cost,” said P. Unnikrishnan, general secretary, Kerala Water Authority Employees’ Union (CITU).

The difference between the volume of water supplied and the actual usage by consumers is to be assessed for reaching any conclusion about water loss. This calls for the division of the distribution network into district metering areas and deployment of flow meters. However, no such study has been conducted in Kochi. The scientific estimate of water loss was crucial since that remained central to the work to be carried out by the company to be entrusted with the work, the trade unions alleged in the booklet.

One of the tender stipulations is that the company selected should carry out a water loss study. It will pave the way for the replacement of derelict pipes. It would allow the company to be selected to define the scope of implementation of the project and was therefore unfair, the trade unions contended.

The ₹2,511-crore KUWSIP was accorded administrative sanction in 2020. Of this, the ADB loan accounted for 70%, while the remaining 30%, around ₹750 crore, should be raised by the State government. Later, it was decided to implement the first phase of the project within Kochi city limits. Two works — renovation of the drinking water distribution network and an expression of interest for the selection of a project consultant — had been tendered initially.

Trade unions further alleged that the KWA had a peripheral role in drawing up the project estimate. Instead, the ADB consultant had prepared the estimate, and it was accorded technical sanction after some minor tweaks by then KWA officials, they said.

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