Reported by Biswajit Dash
Bhubaneswar, Sep 26:
In a shocking move, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has planned to set up water purifier ATMs for slum dwellers of Odisha capital that would sell water for 30 paise a litre.
BMC cites demand and supply situation to justify the move to charge slum dwellers for their drinking water. Conveniently though, it forgets the affordability and willingness to pay among the generally poor inhabitatnts of the shanties.
It claims that water supplied by Public Health Department (PHD) is not very safe to drink in many areas of the city. Besides, the water gets even more polluted during the summer months. In the absence of access to any proper alternative, slum dwellers are forced to drink the polluted tap water. Many others stick to pouched water hoping it would be safe to drink, but unwittingly contribute to further pollution by their indiscriminate use of plastic pouches..
BMC sees the solution to these issues in its ATM machines that would sell water purified through reverse osmosis (RO) method.
If BMC complaints regarding the quality of water supply by PHD are true, they of course raise serious concerns and point a finger towards gross inefficiency as PHD spends crores for setting up and maintaining water purifier plants and associated manpower and other requirements.
The larger question, however, is the BMC scheme that plans to spend Rs4.5 crore of public money in the first phase to set up 20 such ATMs in various slums of the city. The overall project cost will obviously shoot up by the time all the works are completed.
While BMC plans to charge the consumers for the water and points out that it would be able at some point to recover some of the project cost, the affordability of and need for such a project are in question.
Last year, BDA spent a whopping Rs 12 crore to set up 24 projects that would supply drinking water to various slums round the clock. It has a long-term plan to set up 218 such projects across the city.
Speaking on the issue, a senior official of PHD pointed it out to be a move by BMC to pocket some money.
“If BMC really wants to set up water ATMs, let it do so near the bus stand or station. Hundreds of passengers would benefit from this. People would like to buy pure water even at Rs 1 than the proposed 30 paisa in those places since the bottled alternative would cost them Rs 20. Why spend crores in slums? There shouldn’t be schemes to loot public money in the name of supplying them RO water,” said the official without wanting to be named.