“Realistic Pricing of Water Required”

Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Member, Water Advisory Group, ADB

“You need to Price water to recover the cost of piped water to some extent and make sure that people begin to conserve water. Politicians are reluctant to charge the operation and maintenance costs we need to break this resistance and get people to understand why you need to Price water” said Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Member, Water Advisory Group of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Dr Ahluwalia was giving a talk titled ‘Issues Relating to Water Availability’ at New Delhi’s India Habitat Center recently. She made a strong case for having realistic water pricing in place “From where are the investments for ‘Nal se Jal‘(piped water)  going to come from, even if the government pays to put the pipe water infrastructure in place the maintenance of infrastructure has to be recovered. In 1992 a government committee headed by Vaidyanathan had recommended volumetric pricing (higher pricing rates to be charged for higher consumption) of water and the water policy of 2012 too had reaffirmed that.”

Dr Ahluwalia felt that an independent regulatory authority should be set up which would set the price of water “One way of doing it is to have an independent regulatory authority which will set the price of water and the government has to accept the price set by this regulator. If the government wants to subsidize a particular group they can make a direct to transfer to that particular section.” 

Dr Ahluwalia explained the costs involved for providing piped water top the cities “a whole lot has to happen before you have tap water first you have to extract water from a natural source treat it, make it portable, investing in distribution networks of pipelines you also need to invest in sewers so that water once used is properly treated and disposed. The waste water is taken to sewage treatment plants after this wastewater is treated you return this water to nature all of this requires investment in pipes, sewers, STP’s, storm water drains and more.”

She identified open nalas getting mixed with sewers as a big challenge “one thing we need to ensure is that sewer water is always separated from storm water drains because if you have open or covered storm water drains through leakage or otherwise linking up with sewage then instead of carrying rain water to water bodies they would carry sewage. In Delhi a whole lot of open nalascarry sewage and people put garbage in them and when it rains nalas turn into sewers so we have sewage is being carried to water body instead.”

Dr Ahluwalia urged for urgency for checking the irresponsible and unlimited extraction of ground water “India is the largest user of groundwater in the world the water table in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi has reduced at a rate of 4 cm per year. In rural areas electricity is free for farmers hence large amounts of irrigation water is getting extracted and in the cities inadequate water supply have made people to rely on ground water. Deepening ground water levels means that water contains arsenic and other substances that are harmful to health.”

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