Sceptics question AAP govt's free water policy, point at challenges

The Kejriwal’s government delivering on its promise has made water supply up to 20 kilolitre free for all households with water meters. Former bureaucrats and experts, however, show cautious optimism.

“The Delhi government has no budget to subsidise water. They will have to divert funds from other heads,” said Umesh Sehgal, former Chief Secretary of Delhi. “I find this decision a bit illogical,” he added.

The Delhi Jal Board was a loss-making entity until it took the privatisation route, said A K Arun of National Platform Against Water Privatisation, who is optimistic that the government will be able to deliver on its promises.

“We wrote letters to several parties. We are happy that Aam Aadmi Party took it up in their electoral campaign. But it is difficult to say how the government plans to deliver,” he said.

The DJB, which handles the distribution channel, had reported 30-40 per cent losses last year. Arun acknowledges that Delhi has some water deficit areas in south, west and east districts. “Supplying water in those areas will be a challenge,” Arun said.

Sehgal said the government’s announcement was silent on how they would give piped water supply to unorganised colonies, where many households do not have water meters. “Only those with meters will get 20 kilolitres of water,” he said.

According to a study, over 30 per cent of Delhi’s population not confined to slum clusters and unauthorised colonies alone receive no piped supply whatsoever.

With funds being diverted to subsidising water supply, Sehgal is afraid that the government may postpone plans for laying new pipelines. “Where will they get the funds from? How can they issue tariff orders without any project future?” he said.

The government will charge for the entire water consumption if it crosses the 20 kilolitres mark. Experts believe that it will ensure that Delhiites keep a tab on water consumption.

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