In a country like India with a population of more than a billion and a large section of the population living in rural areas resources like water are worth their weight in gold.
Changing climatic conditions, irregular rains, lack of waste water management and pollution in lakes, rivers and local water bodies have led to a water crisis across the country. Although the government is trying to solve this problem at various levels the effort has not been very successful.
It has come to a stage where participation of private players must be considered to tackle the situation prevailing in these areas. But this is not as easy as it appears. Water privatization has been contentious topic and needs to be handled delicately.
To understand more about Public-Private-Partnerships in water and waste water management we spoke to Mr. Arun Lakhani, MD Vishvaraj Infrastructure Ltd. one of the leading organisations taking up PPP projects in India. Here's what he had to say about one of their landmark projects – Nagpur 24x7 water project.
Nagpur is the third largest city in the state of Maharashtra and the seat of the annual winter session of the Maharashtra state assembly, "Vidhan Sabha". The city needs about 540lts a day for its population of 2.5million people.
For the first time in India a government body – Nagpur Municipal Corporation build a Public Private Partnership to deliver 24x7 water supply to an urban city. One of main challenges was that such a venture had never been tried before. The Nagpur water PPP project was first of its kind in India and took some time to design an acceptable and sustainable structure.
As the driving force behind this project Lakhani spearheaded the project with a clear plan and transparent processes. The venture has been successful and now a model for future projects.
The New Challenge:
Currently, Vishvaraj Infrastructure is implementing new projects in five districts of Karnataka; Magadi, Bidar, Basavakalyan, Shahabad and Yadgir.
The aim behind these projects is to create 3.81 lakh water connections across these five cities. Simultaneously, it also plans to lay 922 kilometres of pipeline.
The outcome of the project will be that more than 81,000 people will be receiving drinking water directly in their house taps. A goal that will greatly decrease the disease rate and increase sanitation and hygiene. The main goal of these projects is to overhaul the water distribution system in these five cities.
Talking on how the concerns regarding water privatization, it must be noted that the private partner is responsible for operations and providing tap water connections to the households of the targeted cities.
The Government body is responsible for deciding tariff and development plan for the city.
One thing that must be highlighted is that ever since the project has been implemented, people have been regularly paying bills without follow-ups. This shows how much receiving clean drinking water at home has impacted the lives of people.
Various state governments have now started turning to PPPs to manage drinking water supply to urban and rural areas.