India has decided to utilise a $1-billion loan from the World Bank to start round-the-clock paid water supply facilities in 12 major cities across the country.
The union urban development ministry plans to launch the 24x7 water supply project on a pilot basis by 2012. "We are discussing the modalities of the project with the World Bank, which has given in-principle approval to the $1 billion worth of assistance. We are in the process of finalising the list of cities where the project will be launched," a ministry official told HT.
The selected cities would have to adopt mandatory reforms like levy of user charges for consumption, and installing a metering system to check wastage, added the official.
Sources said funds would start coming in by 2012, when the new five-year plan begins.
The project is, however, not an extension of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) — the ministry's flagship urban modernisation programme — that was launched in 2005 for a seven-year period with a total investment of Rs 1 lakh crore. Till date, 63 cities are part of the JNNURM.
"Though the broad outline of the programme would be similar to that of the JNNURM, but it is not going to be as broad-based because of limited funds. We will use the funds to modernise the water infrastructure," said another official.
A World Health Organization report has said that by 2017, India will become "water stressed" when the per capita availability will decline to 1600 cubic metre.
At present only two cities in the country — Jamshedpur and Nagpur — have 24x7 piped water supply systems. Only about 66% of the population in India has access to piped water.
A huge quantum of potable water gets wasted because of leakage on account of old and worn-out water pipelines, which has also resulted in inequitable distribution.