The proposed move by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to shift its zonal laboratory from Bhagirathi plant near Gokulpuri to another location has attracted criticism from within the organisation and from activists who are calling it another step towards privatisation.
Mateen Ahmed, MLA and vice-chairperson of the DJB, has written about the issue to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who is the chairperson of the board, and also to the CEO of the civic body. The Water and Sewage Lab Staff Association has decided to protest.
There are seven water treatment plants in Delhi, each with its own plant laboratory.
Assistant chemists and laboratory technicians manage these labs. The Bhagirathi plant has already been handed over to a private company. And now, the zonal laboratory, currently situated on the premises, is to be shifted away from the plant.
“What is the need to shift the lab? This is the only lab in east Delhi,” Ahmed complained.
Debashree Mukherjee, the DJB CEO, said, "We are shifting only the zonal lab. It will be run by the private operator who will also monitor the real time water quality during production."
But activists are questioning this move. Said SA Naqvi from the Water Privatisation-Commercialisation Resistance Committee, "How can the DJB entrust an important issue like public health in private hands?"
Kiran Shaheen, activist associated with Pani Hakk Abhiyan, also suggested an independent monitoring committee for water quality checks. "This committee can carry out evaluation and system audit, akin to the comptroller- and auditor-general."