Rising thefts of water meters from Mumbai’s slum areas is forcing the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to look for cheaper options. Since last year, 600 water meters, each costing approximately Rs 10,000, have been stolen.
The meters, which contain brass, are sold in the scrap market for Rs400-500 each.
“The civic body now wants to install cheaper meters in slum areas as against automated water meters. This is because the BMC recovers the cost of water meters from consumers. Slum-dwellers may not be able to afford automated meters, which keep getting stolen,” said additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta, before admitting that the number of meter thefts in slum areas had surged.
In August 2008, the BMC decided to install automated water meters in residential buildings across the city to monitor the exact amount of water leakage and theft. The pilot project covered seven wards of the island city and the western suburbs from Goregaon to Dahisar.
The ambitious project was scheduled to be complete by 2012 and would have served 3.11 lakh consumers in the city. However, till date, the BMC has only installed 61,363 water meters.
The meter system is also beneficial to end consumers, who end up paying more under the present system where the civic department issues bills on the basis of average consumption and not exact water usage. However, the rising theft problem forced the BMC to stall the project in slum areas on November 18.
Meanwhile, the Congress has opposed the administration’s move. “The civic body cannot differentiate between the rich and the poor. Even slums should get the same meter as other buildings,” said Rajhans Singh, Congress corporator and Opposition leader in the BMC.
The BMC currently supplies 3,350 million litres of water a day (mld), against a demand of 4,200 mld. Around 700 mld are is lost due to leakage and pilferage every day.