The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided against building water desalination plants in the city calling them financially unviable. Almost two years after the civic body first planned to build the plants to help the city tide over its water deficit, the decision to scrap the plan was taken following the Centre’s advisory.
The BMC had even appointed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) as its advisor for setting up such plants in the city. As an alternative, the civic body is now contemplating encouraging private players to set up such plants in the city.
Confirming the move, additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota said, “The plants were found to be financially unviable because of the high costs involved. Also, the Centre’s advisory said they were resource-centric.”
While giving a break-up of the cost involved, a senior civic official, on condition of anonymity, said: “We found that desalinating water would cost us almost 10 times the amount that it currently costs us to bring the same amount of water from the lakes. For desalinating 1,000 litres of water, it would have cost us Rs70, whereas right now it costs us Rs10-14.” The land crunch in the city was another restraint, the official added. (See box)
An official, on condition of anonymity, said the BMC will not help the private players set up these plants. “Instead, we might offer them a section of our water consumers, whom they could supply water to,” the official said. The private player will be responsible for supply and distribution of water in those areas, he added.
Such a plan had demerits, which will be taken into account, the official said. “If we give up some of our commercial customers to these private players, then we stand to lose our revenue to them.”
The civic body had earlier sought to implement Chennai’s model of constructing desalination plants in the city. Chennai currently has one functional desalination plant, while another one is under construction.
Chennai, however, has given subsidies to the players running the desalination plants. “In Chennai, land has been given for free and electricity supply has been promised at the same rate for the next few decades. As a result of all these subsidies, they are supplying water at a rate of Rs49 per thousand litres,” said an official, on condition of anonymity.