Drinking water to cost more in villages than Bengaluru

The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department has set up 16,528 reverse osmosis plants across the state and work to set up 2,054 such plants is underway. DH File Photo

For rural people enduring the agony of drought, the state government is set to give a big shock by making a family shell out about Rs 250 per month for drinking water alone, an amount that can fulfil all their water needs if they lived in Bengaluru.

The government has approved a proposal by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department (RDPR) to hike the price of drinking water supplied from a reverse osmosis plant. Over the next five years, there will be a three-fold rise in the price of water from the present rate of 10 paise per litre. 

The price for the first two years has been fixed at 25 paise/ litre, followed by 30 paise/litre for third and fourth years while the for the fifth year price will be raised to 35 paise/litre. The price of about 900 litres of water will cross Rs 300 in the next five years.

As per a conservative estimate, a family of five requires about 30 litres of drinking water per day, as it is also used for cooking. With the new rates, a rural family will have to spend Rs 225-250 per month on drinking water alone.

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Boards’s (BWSSB) public relations office said a family of five in Bengaluru can meet all of its water needs by paying about Rs 300 for 18,000 litres of water.

The RDPR department has set up 16,528 RO plants across the state and work to set up 2,054 such plants is underway.

However, only 8,640 are regularly monitored. Officials have proposed to appoint agencies for operation and maintenance of all the plants for the next five years at an estimated cost of Rs 223.74 crore.

RDPR Principal Secretary L K Atheek could not be reached for comment. However, Commissioner for Rural Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Vishal R, said the latest prices will help in the upkeep of the RO plants. 

“All these days, the focus was limited at setting up the RO plant. Many plants became defunct due to lack of maintenance and improper operation. Now, we have remodelled the process to ensure that people get quality water while the plants themselves see regular maintenance,” he said.

Though the government order came in March, the works for maintenance are being awarded over the last one month. The new rates are expected to come into effect at all the RO plants in the coming days.

An official who worked on the Gram Swaraj scheme said the government’s approach to RO plant maintenance was flawed. “The assumption that villagers can spend as much as Bengalureans is wrong. The government should subsidise drinking water and regulate free electricity to agriculture pumps which draw lakhs of litres of underground water every day,” he said.

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