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Apr 27 2007
Supplied or written by Willy

DNA India

Friday, April 27, 2007 12:58:00 AM
*BMC mulls private water, activists get friends to point out mistakes*

Sandeep Ashar

A study conducted by New Zealand firm Castalia with the aid on the World Bank to bring about reforms in water distribution and management in the K (East) municipal ward has invited the ire of activist working on water-related issues.

Appointed by the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), an outfit of the World Bank, Castalia is expected to table the report of its two-year study done with an objective to improve water supply, improving hours of supply, pressure, reducing leakage, metering and improving customer service before the BMC by May 15.

Residents and activists gathered at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on Thursday, however, dubbed it as a step towards privatising city’s water and water assets. Afsar Jafri, an activist with the Focus on the Global South Asia, said the municipality’s role in the process was questionable.

Why has the BMC authorised PPIAF to hire a foreign consultant to study K East water supply network? It must be noted that PPIAF has pledged Rs25 million for the pilot project.

He further questioned, “Why has the BMC surrendered to the World Bank for a paltry sum?

Why has no contract been signed between the BMC and Castalia? What would be the legal and constitutional basis for the BMC to accept suggestions and recommendations made by the private firm.”

“There were also reports that pre-paid meter connection will be promoted by the BMC,” he added.

While BMC’s officer of special duty (water) TV Shah, who was present on the occasion, stopped short of calling it a privatisation move, activists said wards like “management consultant”, “public private participation” used frequently nowadays referred to nothing but privatisation.

Quoting examples of similar management models employed by the Delhi Jal Board, and across the globe in Argentia, Bolivia, South Africa, Jafri said, “it is a documented fact that the models failed miserably. They only led to a exponential rise in tariffs without improving water supply.”

Julian Perez, an official from the ministry of water in Bolivia who had participated in the infamous water wars in the country in 1999 and 2004 owing to a “push towards privatisation” agreed. “Privatisation of water assest led to 300- 400 per cent rise in tariffs, he said.

Shah, however, said, “The present contract that lasts for five years with Castalia would not lead to a tariff hike.” He was, however, non committal when someone from the audience asked, “Could BMC guarantee no hikes in future as well.”

Based on the report, BMC plans to extend the pilot project to all its wards. Tamysen East, a water activist from UK, who has been campaigning against water privatisation alleged that millions invested by her country and World Bank towards aid for water supply needs in developing countries was aimed at promoting privatisation.

She released a Hindi version of Reclaim Public Water, Achievements, Struggles and Vision from Around the World written by a number of authors, including herself.

� 2005-2007 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. All rights reserved.

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