water for both agricultural and domestic uses should be priced. This will curb wastage and ensure scientific management. Water wastage is sometimes as high as 200 per cent in canal irrigation. Since governments do not have the political resolve to increase the rates of irrigation water, they are encouraging participatory irrigation management systems and water-user societies. This has curbed wastage to some extent and has also ensured a semblance of equality in distribution.
Another related issue is that electricity for extracting groundwater is heavily subsidised. In fact, some states do not charge the electricity used to extract irrigation water. All this has caused scarce groundwater to be over-exploited.
The Bangalore municipality has tried to rationalise prices of domestic water supply. From January 2003, the rates vary as follows:
Upto 15 kilolitres (kl): Rs 6
15- 25 kl: Rs 8
25-50 kl: Rs 12
50-75 kl: Rs 30
75-100 kl Rs 36
100 kl and above: Rs 38
Though there was some resentment against raising prices initially, people are now paying without any grudge. Raising tariffs has checked the wastage of water and the water department has been able to ensure good supplies.
Now the Karnataka Government intends granting water distribution rights of Bangalore Metro to a private foreign agency. This will bring in the latest technology to prevent wastage (pilferage) and ensure equitable and sure supplies. Privatisation will also guarantee good revenue collection.
Since Bangalore is fast becoming an important centre of the software industry, the city requires an efficient water supply system. The government does not have the financial wherewithal to provide this. Therefore the service should be leased out to the private sector. After the expiry of the lease, the local corporation can take the utility back. By then people would have realised the importance of paying for good services and also learnt to avoid wastages for which they pay extra.
K C B RAJU is former regional director, Sadashivpur, ministry of water resources, Karnataka
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