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Apr 27 2007
Supplied or written by Willy

The official website of *Afternoon*, Bombay-India
Friday, April 2007

*For or against privatisation of water: debate begins…*

BY A STAFF REPORTER | Friday, April 27, 2007 8:58:21 IST

Mumbai Paani, initiative of concerned citizens and groups in Mumbai to keep water under democratic control, yesterday conducted a public meeting, where several activists had a discussion on privatisation of water. However, the program is still in the pipeline. The Mumbai Paani group had a tough discussion and debate about disadvantages of the plan. The meeting also saw the launch of ‘Reclaiming Public Water’- a book that describes international initiative to roll back the privatisation of water supply.

The K-East ward has been selected for water privatisation through a Water Distribution Improvement Project with an objective to improve the water supply. If the project is a success, then it will be implemented in all other wards. In January 2006, an agreement was signed with Castalia, French consulting firm based in New Zealand to develop a pilot project for privatisation of the water system in K-East. This consultancy has been funded through a US $ 692,500 (approximately Rs.2.6 crore) grant by the Private Public Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), a multi-donor agency run by World Bank.

When asked the reason of discussing the issue when the plan is in the pipeline stage, Research Associate, Afsar Jafri from Focus on the Global South that supports Mumbai Paani gave a different picture saying that the plan is almost getting ready, “The plan is almost getting ready. Water audit is already been announced. Money is coming from PPIAF, which is meant for privatisation only. This confirms that water is getting privatised.”

While speaking at the meeting, Program coordinator, Ashankar Holy Family Center, Kalpana Taud pointed out that K-East ward has been selected for the project because it is a rich area and further said, “Already we are facing water shortage problem and privatisation would add to the problem then why are we going ahead with the privatisation plan.” She informed that is these opposition is unheard at this point they would take actions further to stop the implementation.

BMC retired Hydraulic Engineer, T V Shah who was present at the occasion clarified that K-East ward has been selected because of its huge size. “K-East ward has the combination of industries, residents, commercial areas and it has the posh area like Vile Parle along with the area of slums at Jogeshwari as well. This will give a better view towards the working of the project.”

Citing the example of mobile phones getting cheaper, Shah said, “Cell phones are the best example successful private sector. They have gone cheaper benefiting the common man. Same way water might also set a successful example. Privatisation is just another way for equal distribution of water. This would make easier for the poorest of poor to get water at affordable rates.”

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