The source of water supply to Mumbai is its six lakes which, in spite of their healthy levels, are inadequate to quench the thirst of the nearly 20 million population of India’s financial capital. Ramesh B. Bambale spoke to Jibran Buchh on the existing water supply situation in Mumbai and the steps the municipal corporation is taking to augment it.
Do you think privatisation of water supply using a distribution franchisee model could improve the revenue and supply model?
No, personally, I don’t think using a distribution franchisee model could improve the revenue and water supply. Such models elsewhere in the world have failed miserably.
Instead, outsourcing part of the services such as construction i.e. laying new water mains, consumer meter readings, leak detection, flow meter installation and maintenance would be a better approach for the improvement of water supply. The capex plan and revenue generation with operation, maintenance and Planning should remain under utility service.
Are there concrete plans to privatise water supply distribution in Mumbai at least on a pilot basis?
Considering the experiences of other municipal corporations in Maharashtra (Bhiwandi, Aurangabad, Latur – due to tariff revision problems and higher capex, the projects could not moved forward), MCGM is not thinking of privatising water supply distribution either on a pilot or large scale basis.
The present population of the city is around 12.5 million as per census 2011, and average daily water supply is about 3,500 mld against a demand of 4,200 mld. In view of population growth and to augment water supply to Mumbai, the following projects have been undertaken or proposed:
- Middle Vaitarna Project under JNNURM was partially commissioned. Full commissioning will augment total water supply to Mumbai by 455 mld.
- To cater to the increasing demand of water supply, the Maharashtra government has accorded approval to develop the Pinjal water source project which will be implemented by MCGM. This project will augment water supply to Mumbai by 865 mld.
- Damanganga-Pinjal river link project is being implemented by National Water Development Agency, Government of India. It will augment water supply to Mumbai by 1,586 mld.
The development of the above sources is planned to be completed by 2021, which will bring Mumbai’s water supply to around 6,000 mld which will be sufficient for projected growth of the city till year 2031.
Growing population and urbanisation have always put pressure on Mumbai’s water supply. What is your view and what are the main challenges that MCGM faces?
Mumbai is among the 10 mega cities of the world and financial hub of India with a 2011 census population of about 12.5 million. The population of the city increased rapidly after Independence and steady growth continued afterwards, due to available infrastructure and nourishing environment for industrial and commercial development, and business opportunities. Present water supply of Mumbai is around 3,500 million gallon litres per day.
Basic infrastructure like water supply needs to be upgraded and augmented for increase in water demand and to bring health and hygiene levels of the city to contemporary world-class cities. Mumbai is fortunate in this regard and water supply augmented from time to time and sources are developed right from 1862 (Vehar, the first source) till 2013 (Middle Vaitarna, being the latest source).
Timely augmentation of sources to keep pace with development and to deliver continuous water at tap is the key issue the civic administration is facing at the moment. This issue forced MCGM to explore water supply sources for augmentation of water supply on top priority in addition to water conservation measures.
So far water supply augmentation schemes were planned and executed to meet the water requirements of a decade or so. By the time the scheme was commissioned the demand had increased resulting in deficit. MCGM now proposes to develop sources to achieve surplus availability of water supply against the demand. The surplus augmentation planning will have a long-term and far-fetching effect on Mumbai water supply. It will enable MCGM to supply water continuously against the present intermittent water supply system. The problems related to contamination, inequitable distribution, odd hours supply and issues related to health can also be tackled more effectively.
More than water shortages, we also feel that water management is a key challenge. There are allegedly non-metered connections that could possibly lead to under recoveries for MCGM. What is your opinion?
Yes and No. Yes, there are some management issues which need to be addressed and, no, because in spite of several problems the fact is Mumbai’s water supply is one of the best managed in the country. Every day, we supply sufficient quantity of water to every section in the society (i.e. water supply to planned developments and urban poor). Our study on water consumption shows citizens of Mumbai are drawing more water when compared with national norms (national norms non-slum – 150 lpcd, slum – 45 lpcd).
There is question of under recovery due to U/M connections because those customers are paying water taxes. MCGM is trying hard to account for unmetered water supply by installing meters on U/M connections. Recently, we did a survey/audit of unmetered connections and worked out the quantity for unmetered supply which is about 20 per cent of Mumbai’s daily water supply. We are planning for metering of every customer, which would enable us to assess and reduce unaccounted supply.
For the last three-four years there have been talks about providing round-the-clock water supply to the city, especially after completion of the Middle Vaitarna and Bhatsa projects.
We have already started 24×7 water supplies in certain parts of the eastern suburbs. At present, 24×7 water supply is available in T ward/East, S ward/East, N ward/East and L Ward/East localities.