After an eight-hour debate amid strong opposition from Shiv Sena, MNS and Congress, the ruling NCP in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), supported by BJP, managed to get approval to hike water charges by 12 per cent for the financial year 2016-17 and thereafter 15 per cent every year till 2020-21, but dropped the plan of giving powers to the civic administration for a five per cent hike every year till 2047.
Corporators also rejected the civic administration’s plan of setting up a special purpose vehicle for implementing the ambitious project.
The PMC administration had proposed a hike of 50 per cent in water charges for the next financial year, citing the need for raising funds for implementing an ambitious project that would ensure uninterrupted water supply in the city. It had proposed that powers of increasing water charges by five per cent every year be given to the municipal commissioner for the next 30 years.
However, the civic standing committee had subsequently amended the proposal by allowing 12 per cent hike for 2016-17, followed by 15 per cent hike every year till 2020-21 and powers to the municipal commissioner for increasing it by five per cent every year till 2047.
The proposal to hike water charges has faced under criticism from the beginning. The Shiv Sena held protests outside the civic main building and in general body as well to oppose it. MNS corporators wore black clothes and remained standing in the entire meeting that lasted eight hours.
The Sena, MNS and Congress said the PMC would do injustice to residents by charging more for water when it was already struggling to provide sufficient water. “It is improper to increase charges before actually giving sufficient water,” they said even as their suggestion for exempting hike in water charges for slums and those paying it through property tax was rejected by the majority vote.
On the other hand, ruling NCP and BJP said the PMC had not increased water charges for many years and was providing water very cheap.
“The revenue from water charges would be used for implementing the project to ensure supply 24X 7. This is the need of the day and is in the public interest,” they said.
The estimated cost of the 24X7 water supply project is around Rs 3,313 crore, which the PMC plans to raise by seeking funds through various union government schemes, including AMRUT and Smart City, and a loan as per requirement. The hike in water charges would help PMC raise funds for implementing the project without relying much on others, the proposal said.
The project has been planned considering the city’s need by 2047 and would revamp entire water supply network, laying new pipelines and metering every water connection given to consumers. The project would require acquiring land for constructing new water tanks, purification plants and pumping stations.