THE EARTH TIMES
APRIL 15 – 30, 1996
Three case studies on water management by Ashali Varma
India, with an estimated population of 950 million is one-third the size of the US, but has four times the population. Due to urban congestion, polluted water sources and poor maintenance of water carrying systems, public utilities cannot cope with the demand for water and many cities in India face acute water shortage.
Hyderabad is the fifth largest city in India with a population of 4.5 million and is expected to grow to 11.3 million by the year 2011. Located 180 miles west of the Bay of Bengal, Hyderabad is on the Deccan Plateau at an elevation of 1800 feet above sea level. The average annual rainfall is 32 inches.
During the drought years 1987-89, Hyderabad’s citizens got only 8 to 13 gallons of water per person per day. As in many cities in India, the problems stemmed from mismanagement of water resources, and increasing demands from the agriculture and industrial sectors.
Vedantam Laksmipathy, professor of Urban Management and Human Resource Development at Osmania University in Hyderabad, masterminded a plan to form an autonomous board that would handle the city’s water supply and sanitation.
“When we established the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board in 1989, we took three important steps. First, we established that the operations would be commercially oriented and the objective would be to recover revenue expenditure if not capital,” Laksmipathy said.
The second step was to get a loan from the World Bank for $100 million for an eight year period to improve infrastructure. One of the elements was to build a pipeline from the Singur dam 40 miles away for improving the distribution of water supply and sewage networks. The third component was technical assistance which involved a detailed examination of the existing delivery system and proposing changes to make it more efficient. This included training personnel and developing the capacity to meet demands.
The managing director of the Board, Venkataraman Bhaskar, said, “We restructured the organization so that for all the problems the customers have to go to one office, for bills and sanctioning new hook-ups. We also undertook to train personnel to the customers’ needs.”
Bhaskar admits that they still have a long way to go. But the initial results are good and because the customers are being treated better they have not minded the fact that water rates have gone up twice since the inception of this project.
“Today, we have succeeded in recovering revenue expenditure,” Bhaskar said, “we also have a drive on to curb illegal connections and we have strengthened our efforts on leakages and identifying sources for unaccounted water loss. We are planning to reduce this from the present 34 percent to 20 percent by the year 2000.” Bhaskar said.
“Today only 25 percent of the city’s sewage is treated. By the year 2000 we hope to reach 50 percent.”
John Briscoe, chief of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Division, who is involved with the Hyderabad project, said, “Bhaskar is doing a good job and Hyderabad is moving in the right direction but how fast is the question.”
Briscoe feels that before laying pipelines from distant dams, the city needs to attend to its leakage and water loss problems. “My sense is that for India to modernize, it has to have a better infrastructure and more private sector involvement.”
Inadequate water supply and sanitation compound the problems that go with urban congestion in Mexico City, which has a population of 20 million. Situated at 7,267 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains, the city has 72 percent of its water pumped from deep wells within the valley. This has led to serious problems of ground water depletion and to a gradual sinking of large sectors of the city. The rest of the water is pumped to the city from Cutzamala, a river basin 62 miles away and 3,275 feet lower than the city, and from
Lerma, which is 37 miles away.
Cristianne Chauvet Urquidi is director of client services for Industrias del Agua de la Ciudad
de Mexico, SA de C.V., a private Anglo-Mexican company, and one of four companies chosen by the city water commission in an effort to get private investment to help upgrade water services.
Chauvet said, “Although about 94 percent of the population gets water either directly or through community pumps, in squatter settlements almost a million and a half people have to buy water from trucks and pay ten times the amount.”
Chauvet said, “In many places the water mains are contaminated by sewer mains and waste disposal. This is due to the fact that Mexico City is sinking and is prone to earthquakes which crack and displace water mains.”
“Previously water supply and sanitation came under five or six local and federal entities so the planning was inefficient,” said Chauvet. “In addition the rates are subsidized by the government and are lower than the cost of water supply.”
Four years ago the Federal District Water Commission was set up to take over the functions of the water sector under one body. The Commission undertook to contract four private companies to develop a new water management strategy.
“Each company has been given one-fourth of the city and the first stage consists of a comprehensive survey cum census of all premises and its water intakes,” Chauvel said. “Installation of new meters and a thorough check up of the state of water and sewage mains is also part of this process.”
In the second stage, the companies will manage the commercial side of water supply, which is reading meters, determining consumption, applying rates, billing and taking payments. “We expect to collect more because of better customer service,” Chauvet said. “Now as private contractors we are paid for these services by the commission, but in the future it is
expected that private companies will buy water in bulk and sell it to consumers, so the government will only be regulators.”
Chauvet said that the people are aware of the problems and want the situation to improve and
don’t mind paying more for water as it will be directly related to consumption and they will get better service.
Greater Accra, a bustling commercial center, is the capital of Ghana and, along with Tema, a neighboring port city, it has a population of 3 million. It is estimated that only 60-70 percent Accra-Tema residents have safe drinking water.
Marley Ebenezer is area director of the Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation and heads the Accra-Tema Metropolitan Area for water and sanitation. Ebenezer described the problems cities face when projects are not implemented on time.
“In 1963 a Master Plan for the supply to the Accra-Tema metropolitan area was proposed and it was projected that the population of this area would be 3 million by the year 2000 and the water requirement would be 150- 250 gallons a day,” Ebenezer said.
“However, due to political changes and a prolonged financial crises, today the water supply is only 70 million gallons a day and the population has already reached 3 million. We have a severe water shortage on our hands, because per capita consumption is 50 gallons a day,” Ebenezer said. “What’s more, the plan drawn up in 1963 is going to cost more than double today.”
Meanwhile, the citizens suffer. “In very poor areas we supply two or three buckets a day to a family free of charge,” said Ebenezer. A hydroelectric dam at Kpong, which is 42 miles away, supplies Accra with 40 million gallons while the Weija dam on the Densu river, 8 miles away supplies the rest.
The government has several programs on hand. “Capacity expansion in the plants that supply
water are under way, so that they can be more efficient,” Ebenezer said, “Both Kpong and Weija will double their capacity by the year 2005.” Funding has come from bilateral agencies, including German, French and the British governments and The World Bank.
“We have drawn up a Master Plan up to the year 2020. But again if this is not implemented in time we will end up facing the same difficulties,” Ebenezer said.