Updated: January 28, 2016 8:36:34 pm
Citing a huge under-recovery in user charges for drinking water supply in the city, municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra proposed to double water charges for households to Rs 1,680 while presenting Rs 2,018 crore budget of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) for the financial year 2016-17 on Thursday.
“Water supply is a big challenge for the city. RMC is spending Rs100 crore annually to supply drinking water to citizens. However, recovery at the existing rate of water charges is around Rs22 crore only. And thus there is a gap of Rs 72 crore between expenditure and cost recovery. To narrow this gap, we propose to increase water charges from Rs 840 to Rs 1,680 for domestic connections and Rs 1,680 to Rs 3,360 for non-domestic connections,” Nehra said at a press conference after presenting the budget to standing committee of RMC.
If the general board of the RMC clears the proposal, water charges will go up in the city for the first time since 2008. The commissioner said that there are 2.70 lakh registered domestic and non-domestic water connections in the city to which RMC supplies around 240 million liters per day (MLD) water.
He said that Rs 100 crore is only revenue expenditure for water supply and does not include capital expenditure like building storage tanks, water treatment plants and laying major pipelines.
“On an average, we are supplying 500 litres to 700 litres of water per day to every household. Total expenditure of the RMC comes to two paisa per litre. But our recovery is 0.04 paisa only. For full recovery of revenue expenditure of RMC on water supply, water charges will require to be increased to Rs 3000 per connection. The existing rates are on the lower side as compared to other civic bodies in the country,” he elaborated.
Nehra further said that dependence on Narmad water was a major factor pushing the revenue expenditure up. “We are paying Rs 42 crore to Rs 45 crore to Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited (GWIL) to get Narmada water. We are also paying around Rs 30 crore electricity bill for pumping water. Additional Rs 16 crore goes towards salary of staff of water works department and Rs 3 crore to valve operators,” Nehra said adding RMC had around Rs 60 crore outstanding payment to clear for water.
Incidentally, Rajkot is heavily dependent on Narmada supply to meet its drinking water needs. Aji-I, Bhadar and Nyari-I dams are local sources of water but they are proving insufficient for increasing population of the city and monsoons running rain deficits over the last two years. Out of the 240 MLD, RMC sources around 180 MLD from GWIL, a state government company tasked with execution of major drinking water projects and pays Rs6,000 per MLD.
The budget proposes to allocate Rs 60 crore for augmenting capacity of local sources. Nehra proposed to spend Rs 10 crore on removing silt form Aji-I dam and Rs 50 crore on purifying water of Nyari-II dam and making it potable. “Sewage water is draining in Nyari-II and therefore its water is not drinkable. We propose address this issue and make Nyari-II water drinkable,” said Nehra.
The commissioner added that the focus of the budget was making Rajkot clean. “Our single point agenda is to make Rajkot the cleanest city of India with a million-plus population by the end of year 2016 and also to make it free from the practice of open defecation. We have covered almost all households with a toilet or a community toilet and garbage is collected door-to-door. In the past we used to think that we cannot compete with cities like Chandigarh and Bengaluru. But we take up this challenging target. We shall emphasize on mechanisation. After provision of machinery and manpower, the deciding factor in achieving this goal will be people’s participation,” he said.
Underlining that user charge recovery formed an important part of Smart Cities Mission, the commissioner also proposed to introduce a new levy in form of Rs 365 garbage collection charge. He also proposed to set aside Rs 5.10 crore for a cleanliness contest among wards.
However, leader of oppostion in RMC, Vashram Sagathiya proposed increase in water charges and said that RMC should demand more from the state government towards Octroi grant to offset the deficit.
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