The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) reportedly spends Rs 250 crore per year to produce filtered water and supplies 320 million gallon per day free of cost to citizens, a one of a kind measure in the entire country.
In view of the sharp rise in the cost of production of water, it has become absolutely necessary to stop wastage of drinking water and introduce a method to help reduce the subsidy burden on civic authorities.
The cost of production of filtered water currently stands at Rs 3.25 per 1,000 litre of water. Senior civic officials feel if remedial steps are not taken now a time will come when more than 50 per cent of KMC’s income could go into supplying drinking water.
A high-level meeting between Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and officials of the Asian Development Bank took place on Wednesday to discuss means to rationalise the water supply .
The KMC will receive Rs 500 crore ADB loan to augment the water distribution network. It also has proposed to supply drinking water round the clock and a pilot project would be taken to carry out the proposal on an experimental basis.
Civic officials said implementing the proposals would require strong political will. If water meters are introduced then people would have to pay on the basis of consumption.
However, there are two problems in installing water meters: first, where to install the water meters and second, how to provide benefits to people living in slums.
Civic officials added that people living in flats worth over Rs 1 crore have an undue advantage as they are getting free drinking water and, at the same time, using filtered water to wash their cars and for gardening and flushing.
Around 20 million gallon of filtered water is wasted per day, and if this could be rationalised a few lakh people could also get access to water supply.
It may be recalled that the ADB, while giving loans to KMC when Subrata Mukherjee was the mayor between 2000 and 2005, had suggested imposition of water tax and restructuring of the assessment department.
Accordingly, the unit area system of assessment of property tax was proposed. Now, the KMC supplies drinking water three times a day. It supplies filtered water from 5.30 am to 9 am in high pressure, then from 2.30 pm to 4 pm in low pressure and from 6 pm to 9 pm in medium pressure.
The water supply system in the city traces it’s origins to the British Raj in 1861 when a lifting station was set up at Palta, where water was purified, and sent to Tallah, where it was stored and then distributed through booster stations.