Reported by Biswajit Dash
Bhubaneswar, June 1:
Aspiring as it does to figure in the list of 100 Smart Cities in the country, the capital city of Odisha should have already had in place water meters to ensure judicious use of this precious resource. Instead, no one – not the government, not the PHD department and certainly not the water consumer – appears too keen on installation of water meters in the city.
Even though the Public Health Department of Odisha Government had allocated Rs 25 crores in financial year 2014-15 to set up water meters in Bhubaneswar, lack of proper planning meant that the meters were not installed and the money went back.
Last year, three engineers went on a tour to different cities out of Odisha to study their water metering models and submitted a Detailed Project Report (DPR) based on their observations. The file, however, got held up at the Urban Development Secretary’s office and tender call notice was not issued.
The meters were supposed to address the concern of loss of revenue due to unaccounted usage of water.
The government is planning to make a fresh allocation of money this year to set them up. However, without a proper strategy to implement the plan still not in place, its success is doubtful.
“We had installed water meters in certain pockets earlier, but the programme failed. We don’t want it to fail again. We are working on a strategy so that the people can brace the water meter and the project can be durable,” said Chief Engineer Khsitish Chandra Sahu.
A senior officer of Public Health Department brought up another angle and suggested changes to the state water policy.
“As per the current water policy, the consumer has to pay for any expense incurred on water supply beyond main supply line. The consumers have to pay for the meter as per this policy. Hence, if the consumer refuses to pay for the meter, we won’t be able to set it up. Neither can we disconnect the water supply in that case. Also, the type of water meter a consumer prefers to set up depends upon him provided our machine is able to read that. Given these conditions, we won’t be able to set up water meters unless and until changes are made to the state water policy,” said the official of Public Health Department.
Another senior officer from the same department suggested a specific meter though.
“As of now, the proposal talks about setting up AMR metre. However, this meter won’t be very effective. Also, we would need manpower who would visit the houses to take the readings. We need GPRS metres that would use radio frequency to update the usage automatically. Even though the initial expenses to set up these meters are high, it can be tamed later,” said the official.
As per the decision made by the government, water metres would be set up in all government, private, residential and commercial facilities. An automatic metre reading methodology would be adopted wherein the water usage would be automatically monitored and bills would be accordingly served.
The Public Health Department would set up these Rs 4,500 metres at a cost Rs 10,000.
The consumers would need to pay for these metres in 24 instalments. While commercial users would be charged Rs 11.26 per unit (1000 litres) water delivered, private users would pay Rs 3.55 per unit.