ONLY 25 per cent water meters installed in the city are functional, according to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data, a setback to the civic body’s efforts to provide 24-hour water supply to all parts of the city.
The civic body has spent crores to achieve 100 per cent water metering but the data indicates it is way behind that target. The data, prepared in 2016-17, shows Mumbai has approximately 4 lakh metered connections, of which 2 lakh are in slums. About 30 per cent of the meters are functional in the island city, nearly 23 per cent in the western suburbs and another 24 per cent in the eastern suburbs.
The data was compiled as part of the BMC’s efforts to provide 24-hour water supply to all parts of the city. Mumbai, currently, is going through a 10 per cent water cut due to depleting stock in the city’s seven lakes.
In Mumbai, 85 per cent water connections are residential, 14 per cent commercial and 1 per cent industrial. The BMC installs water meters for an entire property and not for individual flats. For example, in a housing society or complex, only one water meter is installed and is considered as one property. In slums, the civic body gives multiple connections. According to civic officials, the charges are Rs 3.68 per 1,000 litres for slums and Rs 4.8 per 1,000 litres for housing societies.
“In the last couple of years, nothing much has changed in terms of numbers of working meters. For many years, the billed quantity has remained the same though we have increased the total water supply. For example, the current supply is 3,750 million litres per day but the billed quantity is around 2,700 million litres per day, pointing to the large number of non-functional meters,” an official from the hydraulic engineer (HE) department told The Indian Express.
“Slums are a problem, where residents damage or tamper with the meters to pay less for the water supply,” the official said.
In recent years, the civic body has undertaken several projects to provide 24-hour water supply and one of the key targets was achieving 100 per cent metering. Also, 100 per cent metering is one of the key requirements for reaching service-level benchmarks for all urban local bodies, set by the urban development ministry.
The last two projects initiated for 100 per cent metering and 24-hour water supply were the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) project of over Rs 300 crore in 2009 and Mumbai Water Supply Distribution Improvement Programme (MWDIP) of Rs 280 crore in 2014. “However, both failed to give the desired results despite spending crores, especially the AMR as it was initially supposed to cover slums. But it was later decided that slums should be excluded as residents were damaging the meters,” a BMC
The project of complete metering is also important to increase the civic body’s revenue, especially in the light of its sliding financial position. According to officials, the BMC is expected to earn nearly Rs 1,600 crore from water supply and sewerage charges this year. As of now, the civic body is able to bill about 70 per cent of the water supply. This means nearly 30 per cent water is going waste due to leakage, theft and other factors, causing losses.
Speaking to The Indian Express, A S Tawadia, chief engineer of HE department, said, “The number of working meters has increased as we have installed Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) in new and replaced old connections.” However, executive engineer, meter (revenue) section of the HE department, was unable to provide updated figures.