Darpan Jain, IAS, MD of KUIDFC discusses various challenges facing urban water resources management in India and offers possible solutions
Studies have shown that there is a very high correlation between parameters such as education, income and poverty. If you want to achieve human development indicators and improve quality of life we have to focus on improving our urban water supply.
India Behind Other Developing Countries
The average coverage in India is 60-70 per cent. Other developing countries have reached almost 90 per cent coverage. The water supply in India varies from one hour to six hours in a day, some places it is once in three or five days. In contrast, Brazil, China and Vietnam give their citizens 24/7 water supply.
For quantity of water the norm is 125 lpcd (liters per capita per day). It ranges from 37 to 300 lpcd. Our supply is intermittent and we have not been able to give continuous water. Other cities are near the water supply benchmarks. Developed cities are sometimes higher with 150- 200 lpcd. Bangkok, Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh are not highly developed cities but they supply good quality water 24/7.
There is a wide gap between India and other countries in terms of development and in all the parameters we are far behind. What are the reasons for this?
For example, Karnataka is quite urbanized with 219 urban local bodies. Our water needs are met by surface water. Most of our local bodies are dependent on the seven river systems out of which most important are Krishna and Cauvery. Almost 80 per cent of our needs are met by Krishna and Cauvery. We have not provided 24-hour water supply in any city although we have done some demonstration projects.
Reasons for Poor Supply
It’s a vicious cycle, most of our local bodies; authorities who are implementing water supply are not financially strong. Because local bodies are not financially strong, they are not able to undertake the required investment and development. Whatever investment is done; it is more in asset creation rather than outcome-based approach. So less investment is also not effective, services aren’t good. We cannot ensure continuous water supply, we are not able to reduce leakages, we are not able to maintain quality of water and because of all these things it is difficult to collect user charges.
‘Since the supply is so deficient, why should I pay, is UrbanWaterManagement Edited Excerpts from Mr. Jain’s talk at the Water Conference organized by CII in Bangalore recently a common question. Because the recoveries are bad and the institution level is not strong in terms of capacity and funds, it results in financial instability. The cycle keeps on repeating itself and we are stuck.
Karnataka needs an investment of Rs. 3.2 lakh crore. That is the capital investment that they have been forecast for 20 years in 2009- 2010. Now, we have to double these figures because of inflation. Operational expenditure which the committee estimated was Rs. 5.4 lakh crore.