With Chandigarh receiving Rs 512 crore for the 24×7 pan city water supply project, water usage in the city is expected to go down from the present 230 litres per citizen per day to 150 litres per citizen as the wastages will be minimised, according to Municipal Commissioner Anindita Mitra.
Mitra told The Indian Express, “As many as 55 district metered areas (DMA) will be set up. Work will not start on all the DMAs at once and hence 24×7 water supply will be implemented in phases. The entire city will be covered by 2027 in four years of implementation followed by one year of defect liability period.”
Chandigarh has taken a loan of Rs 412 crore from the French development bank (AFD) for the project and residents have apprehensions about water bill hikes as they feel the burden of the loan and its repayment may fall on them.
“These apprehensions are largely unfounded. In fact, due to smart metering, internal leakages inside houses will be detected. Once the leakages are detected and plugged, bills will go down and be strict as per usage. However, if a household indiscriminately uses drinking water for watering huge lawns and washing cars, then due to smart metering, the bills will rise. The entire project aims to achieve judicious use of water.”
She added, “Moreover, these days we receive complaints of higher water bills despite the meter giving a correct reading. It means there is internal leakage in the house. Now, this is done by physically visiting the site whereas with smart meters we can proactively inform the citizens about it.”
She also said that the interest component of the loan is very low (1.8 per cent) as it is a soft loan and that the Rs 100 crore grant is free of interest. “Water tariff hike is not on the cards as of now. It has already been hiked with effect from April 1, 2022,” she added.
The Chandigarh Municipal Corporation and the AFD will sign the third and final agreement for the project on December 16.
The agreement is between the AFD, the department of economic affairs (DEA) and Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. It involves three agreements, a credit facility agreement, a grant facility agreement and a project agreement.
“The first two were signed between the AFD and the DEA. The third is to be signed between the municipal corporation and the AFD on December 16 this month in Raj Bhavan. It will be signed in the presence of the Punjab Governor and the Chandigarh administrator, the European Ambassador and the French Ambassador,” Mitra said.
“Contrary to public perception, no extra water shall be required to give 24×7 water supply and rather it would ensure rationalisation of water,” she added.
Mitra said tenders were being prepared. “The first request for proposal (RFP) is long-term technical assistance. its expression of interest (EOI) has been floated, evaluated and finalised. Now, an RFP shall be floated to the successful bidders of the EOI. The entire project is of five years with 15-year operations and maintenance.”
“Citizens will receive 24×7 water supply instead of the current 8-9 hours. Once citizens gain faith that water will be available round the clock, the tendency to store water will end. Storage of water leads to wastage as people throw away stored water to fill fresh water,” she said.
“As huge sections of the pipelines are to be changed (at present there are varying diameter pipes), leakages will be arrested to a large extent. It is anticipated that the non-revenue water shall be reduced from a present 35 per cent to 15 per cent. This will lead to huge savings of the scarce and precious commodity, water.”
“At present, the pipelines are laid out intermingled as they have been laid out over the last 40 years. Therefore, it is next to impossible to detect leakages. The new project has been designed in the form of DMAs, wherein all crisscrossing will be removed and water supply shall be metered within the DMA,” she said.
“Moreover, over five years, all tube wells will be capped. Thereby stopping the exploitation of groundwater. Over a while, Chandigarh will be able to move from the orange sector to the green sector,” she added.
“We need 24×7 water exactly because our usage is more than the national average. It leads to a huge wastage of water and tube wells lead to the depletion of the water table. This will also reduce manpower costs as system-generated SMS will be transmitting meter readings daily and it will be easy for the MCC to know the usage patterns of a house. Since the water level has gone down in the city by 10 to 20 metres, some of the tube wells will be kept as a standby arrangement only,” she claimed.