Govt. `initiates' water reforms

NEW DELHI, FEB. 26. After mixed success in power sector reforms which were introduced about 20 months ago, the Delhi Cabinet today decided to "initiate" the process for unleashing reforms in the Capital's water sector.

At a meeting here, the Cabinet decided to set up a Delhi Water Regulatory Commission, which would be the first of its kind in the country. A bill in this regard would be introduced in the next session of the Delhi Assembly.

To be set up on the lines of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, the main objective of the Delhi Water Regulatory Commission is to rationalise and monitor the supply, distribution and cost of water in the city, it was argued.

The Cabinet at its meeting, which was chaired by the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, also approved in principle the proposal to bring another bill in the next session of the Assembly to empower the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) with levying and licensing powers for collecting "charges'' from people using ground water. The proposed bill also envisages making rainwater harvesting mandatory for people `extracting' ground water.

Senior officials of the DJB welcomed the decisions of the Delhi Cabinet hoping that this would pave the way for the long awaited water sector reforms in the Capital. "This is the need of the hour. Setting up of a regulatory commission would not only rationalise tariff structure, which has not been increased for the past several years, it would also make the DJB accountable for the services it provides to the residents,'' the officials said.

Officials said that the proposal to levy user charge for people extracting ground water and making rain water harvesting compulsory would help in checking any further depletion of ground water levels in the Capital.

However, the Water Workers Alliance today opposed the decision of the Delhi Cabinet and alleged these would gradually result in undue burden on the people. "The decision has been taken under pressure from the World Bank. Today's decision is exactly as per guidelines of the World Bank regarding water sector reforms, before it is handed over to the private sector,'' the Alliance spokesman said.