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Involve people in managing water

In an interview Sumita Dasgupta, Co-ordinator, Natural Resource Management Unit, CSE speaks about how Delhi's water woes can be reduced. Involving people in the decision making process and bringing in water consciousness hold the key.

india Updated: May 21, 2003 12:46 IST

The papers said parts of New Delhi would have no water till the time the Upper Ganga canal was closed. Delhi Jal Board (DJB) said there was no need to spread panic. Who do you think was right?
In this particular case, I agree, the media did overplay the issue. But
there is no denying the fact that the non-availability of water is an area of grave concern. On a larger scale there is no room for overstressing of any kind. We have to acknowledge that water is a major issue in the future.

People are willing to pay more but DJB says hiking prices (with particular reference to the board rejecting the World Bank report) will not solve the problem. Do you think tariff revision will help?
To begin with, we in India at large, and in Delhi in particular, pay ridiculously less for water. We pay as little as 3 paise per litre while DJB spends 9 paise per litre. I feel there is a definite need for a major and effective change in the way water tariffs are structured in India.

I do not agree with the DJB claim that with the increase in tariffs the poor will be worst hit. The poor anyway have very little access to safe drinking water. The DJB tankers that go to the Juggi Jhopdi (JJ) clusters are free of cost. So where's the question of them feeling the pinch. If anyone, it is the middle class who might feel it.

What they have in mind isdifferent tariffs for different areas. I think that is not right. By it colonies in the south and southwest Delhi will be taxed more. The tariff is bound to be lop-sided as there are many villages in these areas like Najafgarh and Mehruali.

Why single out posh colonies in the south of the city? What about Lutyen's Delhi and the cantonment area? These areas are under New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). These areas, anyways, get more water than any other part of the city.

Why don't we think of a differential tariff structure. For the first few kilolitres have a fixed price and increase it steadily thereafter. I think that is a more sensible way of doing things.

First Published: May 15, 2003 21:16 IST