Global firms to supply water in some areas

BANGALORE July 3. The Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, has said the Cabinet on Tuesday decided to part-privatise areas under the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).

"Two global players will be given charge of water distribution in some parts of the City," Mr. Krishna said after inaugurating the new Raja Rajeswarinagar City Municipal Council (CMC) building on the City outskirts on Wednesday.

He said Vivendi was one firm but could not recall the name of the other company. Later, the BWSSB Chairman, M.N. Vidyashankar, said the second firm was Ondeo. Both are French companies.

Mr. Krishna explained that privatisation was necessary because the BWSSB was a monopoly. He said costs remained high and water leakage, according to one study, was at 45 per cent. Distribution, therefore, had to be decentralised on the lines of the power sector (which has four new distribution companies). "Here, the two companies will be asked to improve water distribution and help make the sector profitable," he said. He gave no further details.

Although late Rajiv Gandhi had advocated decentralisation, even now there was a regrettable tendency to look towards the Government for funds, Mr. Krishna said. That had to stop. The Government's funds were usually allocated for underdeveloped areas. "The hard truth is that there is no money for urban areas," he added.

Dig at Jayalalithaa

Everyone wanted Cauvery water, Mr. Krishna said. "From Jayalalithaa to CMCs, everyone thirsts for Cauvery water,' he said in a dig at the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's stand on the Cauvery water issue.

If there was plentiful rain and the reservoirs were full, everyone was happy. But even then, to give the CMCs water, money was required, he pointed out.

Earlier, R. Ashok, Uttarahalli MLA, said in two or three months, the seven CMCs would get water from Cauvery Fourth Stage. The Raja Rajeswarinagar CMC (earlier Pattangere CMC) had already paid BWSSB Rs. 1.5 crore for infrastructure. He also sought a police "thane" for the CMC.

The Chief Minister replied he would forward the request to the Home Minister.

Meet on Saturday

D.K. Shivakumar, Urban Development Minister, said he would convene a meeting of all commissioners on Saturday, "to give a new direction to the functioning of city councils" and other such administrative offices.

The week after, he would call the chiefs (of councils). The CMC presidents had to compulsorily hold "janata darshans" from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. once a week. "On the 6th, I will unveil the outlines of what I have in mind," he said.

The CMCs were seen as "bottlenecks" but had to become "gateways", he said. "After all, first impression is the best impression, and these CMCs greet visitors to Bangalore," he pointed out.

Referring to the Rs. 1.5-crore payment to the BWSSB, Mr. Shivakumar said Raja Rajeswarinagar had to become a model for other CMCs.

Referring to Karnataka's fame for its sandalwood, Mr. Shivakumar said he would talk to the Forest Department to frame a law making it compulsory for people to plant at least two sandalwood trees in their houses. That would make the State fragrant again. The Government also had a grand plan to plant five crore trees "for the five crore people in the State," he added.

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