A multinational company in Pithampur was in for a shock as it received a massive water bill for drawing 1.5 crore litres of ground water in the month of June. This is the first time that some of the industrial units in Pithampur have received bills for drawing ground water.
The bill, of which HT has a copy, states that the company consumed 1,51,50,000 litres of water in June. The government agency that sent the bill, Audyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam (AKVN), Indore, said there is nothing wrong with the bill as the meter to measure the ground water consumption was installed by the company itself.
However, the MNC, Bridgestone India, contends that it was not possible for it to consume 5 lakh litres of ground water a day.
In a notice in January this year, the government agency had ordered 380 industrial units in Pithampur to install water meters and this was the first time 88 of them received a water bill.
The notice read: "The meters will be checked on a regular basis and an amount of Rs 1.55 per kilolitre will be charged. The tariff is subject to change."
Unhappy with the move, the Pithampur industry association has now taken up the matter with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
"It is unfortunate that on one hand the government has failed to meet the daily water requirement of the industrial area and on top of that the government agency has arbitrarily decided to charge for ground water usage," association president Gautam Kothari said in the letter to the chief minister.
"If it is possible to draw 1.5 crore litre of water in one month from a tube well, then the government should shelve the Rs 306-crore Narmada water supply project for Pithampur and instead dig up 50-60 tube wells to meet the industrial area's requirement."
The enormous, almost unbelievable, amount of water consumed has sent alarm bells ringing. AKVN Indore official SK Pandit said, "The meter has been installed by Bridgestone itself but only our engineer will be able to clarify the technical aspect of whether the company could have drawn the quantity mentioned in the bill."
Another official of AKVN Indore, who did not wish to be identified, said the move to charge for ground water came after the water table fell to alarming levels. Pithampur, which is also home to a special economic zone, has more than 400 medium- and large-scale industries.