Saturday, November 22, 2008

Water reforms on the anvil-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

Water reforms on the anvil-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
 The water supply scenario in the state might undergo some welcome reforms as minister for urban development S Suresh Kumar has reviewed the work of Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board (KUWSB) and identified some solutions.

Suresh Kumar discussed the problems faced by KUWSB and presented a review of their work to the press on Thursday. One of the major issues identified was the payment of Rs 114 crore, pending from local bodies across the state. The minister decided that the interest amount of Rs 75 crore will be waived and local bodies urged to pay the rest in two or three instalments.

Delay in land acquisition is becoming a hurdle in solving water woes in many parts of the state, according to KUWSB. Around 40 works, including some cases in Gadag, Turuvekere, Magadi, Manavi and Gangavati are pending, because of the lengthy process of acquiring small patches of land for the work. The minister suggested that if there is no other way, they have to purchase the land. Delay in getting permission from various organizations like railways, forest department, PWD, KPTC etc is adding to the issue. There is a shortage of around 90 assistant engineers. The minister suggested that the recruitment process be outsourced to a private body, and the posts be filled in three months.

According to KUSWB officials, there are very few agencies specialized in the water supply and sanitation sector, contributing to the delay. Though the government is floating tenders, there are almost no takers. The Karnataka Transparency Act doesn't allow them to do the work on their own. Non-availability of sufficient materials, like RCC pipes, stoneware pipes and DI pipes, are other issues. The board is constructing a theme park on `Water and waste water learning centre' at Yelahanka, which will have a training centre for board employees, local bodies and the public, including people from specialized fields like plumbers and sanitary workers.

Ground water

The ground water table is decreasing rapidly, resulting in drying of borewells, according to an assessment made by the Board -- 20 years ago, water was used from a water table of 80-150 feet; today, it is as low as 800 feet. Most rural districts are dependent on borewell water. The minister suggested there is an urgent need to cut down this dependence gradually. Borewell water has been found to contain high levels of fluoride and nitrates, that are hazardous to health. The Board is working on new ways to supply all areas with surface water.

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