Thames Water – a private equity plaything that takes us for fools


When the water company was privatised we were promised a utopia of private sector efficiency

  •  Will Hutton ,  Guardian, The Observer, Nov 11, 2012
Victorian sewer, Knightbridge

Inside one of London’s Victorian sewers. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA

London remains the effluent capital of Europe. The Victorian network of sewers is overwhelmed, and untreated or semi-treated sewage is leaking into the Thames, leaving the tide to do the rest, just as it did when the great engineer Joseph Bazalgette built the system. It is no longer acceptable – for consumers or in terms of international water standards. For more than a decade Thames Water has known that it needs to builda huge 20-mile tunnel 70 metres under the river to conduct the sewage out to sea, a £4bn investment that would last more than a century.

The chancellor, George Osborne, has identified the scheme, now gone through interminable planning inquiries, as part of the national infrastructure plan. And it is reliably tipped to be included in December’s autumn statement as eligible for the new infrastructure guarantee. British taxpayers will essentially guarantee the £4bn of Thames Water borrowing, so that whatever happens investors will get their money back. This will allow Britain’s biggest water company to borrow hugely, as a government body in effect, at the keenest rates of interest.

Which is why even if you don’t live in London you should pay attention: you will be offering the guarantee. Enough of such guarantees and Mr Osborne will be able to pronounce the tideway tunnel one of 40 priority projects to spearhead a multibillion-pound infrastructure boost – without increasing public borrowing at all. Magic!

However, those with long memories will recall that one of the principal arguments for privatisation was that no such guarantees would ever be needed again. When Thames Water was privatised back in 1989, raising a paltry £922m for the government, we were promised a utopia of private sector efficiency in which the water industry’s new private sector owners would create a first-class water system at much lower prices than the government ever could. The industry could escape Treasury constraints and borrow freely. Regulation would be light touch. The “dead hand” of government should be got out of this industry as out of every other.

Thames is certainly a different company, proudly boasting that 99.98% of its sampled water meets quality standards and of a rolling investment programme to meet its regulatory obligations. And, God, has it borrowed freely! It is crippled with debt, which has jumped from £1.8bn to £8bn over the past decade under its foreign owners – first the German utility RWE and, since 2006, a group of private equity funds domiciled in Luxembourg, marshalled by the Australian bank Macquarie. Taking account of the debt means that its net worth has hardly risen at all.

Macquarie is the bank that makes Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital look saintly. Its every effort is organised to outflank regulators and tax authorities, and so make extra for itself – thus its nickname as the millionaire factory. But the game cannot start unless it owns a monopoly business, such as Thames Water, that reliably generates profits and cash. In a country such as Britain, whose politicians like to claim is “open for business” and where tough questions about corporate behaviour are rarely asked, it is an invitation to be looted, and so we have been. Responsible owners would steward their company with more care.

Thames Water has done what the regulator has asked but no more. It has not been concerned to make the water system more resilient, with, say, back-up reservoirs to guard against climate change – earlier this year, we witnessed restrictions on water use because of drought. Nor has it managed its affairs so that it has spare capacity for the unexpected or for a big project like the tideway tunnel.

Instead it is a vehicle whose over-riding priority is incredible shareholder enrichment. By maxing out on debt, all the astonishingly high interest payments can be offset against tax, so that in 2012 it paid no tax whatsoever even while paying £279.5m of dividends – subject, of course, to minimal Luxembourg taxation. T Martin Blaiklock, an infrastructure consultant whose work the Observer reports today, calculates that if Thames had made no dividend payments over the past 10 years and instead used the cash to build up reserves, it would have accumulated £4bn to build the tunnel with no extra borrowing, and thus no extra water charges. The private equity groups behind Thames, he reckons, would have merely seen their investment grow by about two-thirds since 2006 rather than enjoyed a tenfold increase – a much fairer deal all round.

As it is, the Treasury is going to endorse the way Thames has been managed by offering it the get-out-of-jail free card of an infrastructure guarantee. I favour using such guarantees to deliver infrastructure investment that would not otherwise take place, but it throws into sharp relief the co-dependence that exists between the public realm and the private sector – and one that is wholly unacknowledged either in law or culturally.

Thames Water is a utility providing 14 million Londoners with water. In law, and culturally, it is no more than a private equity plaything whose obligations to London are secondary to whatever wheeze will enrich its shareholders, who now include both Abu Dhabi’s and China’s sovereign wealth funds.

Most of England’s water companies are run the same way. As Blaiklock comments, sooner or later one of our overindebted water companies will collapse, requiring a more formal bailout than an infrastructure guarantee. (State-owned Scottish Water, by contrast, faces no such risk.) But it will have contributed precious little tax to the state that is bailing it out.

Four crucial reforms are required before the guarantee scheme is launched.

First, Ofwat, the regulator, should have much greater powers with regard to water companies’ balance sheet strategies: borrowing plans should only go forward with its prior approval and it should be able to launch periodic stress tests.

Second, as public service companies, all British water companies should pay corporation tax as a percentage of turnover, with proper deductions for investment and depreciation, but no allowances for any financial transaction with a tax haven.

Third, non-executive directors of utilities should be made legally responsible for ensuring that the utility’s first obligation is to discharge its purpose as a utility rather than to be financially engineered to induce high shareholder returns.

Fourth, the government should take a golden share in each company that accepts a guarantee.

What has happened to the English water industry over the past 20 years is as disgraceful as what happened to our banks. Britain badly needs new infrastructure investment; but it also needs a more responsible capitalism. Mr Osborne has the opportunity next month to ensure both. He cannot – and must not – offer indiscriminate guarantees for no wider economic and social return

Risk of water wars rises with scarcity #mustread


 
 
Almost half of humanity will face water scarcity by 2030 and strategists from Israel to Central Asia prepare for strife.
Chris Arsenault Last Modified: 26 Aug 2012 09:47
 
 

Click on the water conflict map to see some of Al Jazeera’s coverage of an issue which could define 21st century strife

The author Mark Twain once remarked that “whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over” and a series of reports from intelligence agencies and research groups indicate the prospect of a water war is becoming increasingly likely. 

In March, a report from the office of the US Director of National Intelligence said the risk of conflict would grow as water demand is set to outstrip sustainable current supplies by 40 per cent by 2030.

“These threats are real and they do raise serious national security concerns,” Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said after the report’s release.

Internationally, 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.

Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources. 

Dangerous warnings

Governments and military planners around the world are aware of the impending problem; with the US senate issuing reports with names like Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Depth

Environmental conflicts

  Crowded planet
  Climate SOS
  Anatomy of a Drought
  Deep trouble
  Food riots predicted over US crop failure

With rapid population growth, and increased industrial demand, water withdrawls have tripled over the last 50 years, according to UN figures.

“Water scarcity is an issue exacerbated by demographic pressures, climate change and pollution,” said Ignacio Saiz, director of Centre for Economic and Social Rights, a social justice group. “The world’s water supplies should guarantee every member of the population to cover their personal and domestic needs.”

“Fundamentally, these are issues of poverty and inequality, man-made problems,” he told Al Jazeera.

Of all the water on earth, 97 per cent is salt water and the remaining three per cent is fresh, with less than one per cent of the planet’s drinkable water readily accessible for direct human uses. Scarcity is defined as each person in an area having access to less than 1,000 cubic meters of water a year.

The areas where water scarcity is the biggest problem are some of the same places where political conflicts are rife, leading to potentially explosive situations.

Some experts believe the only documented case of a “water war” happened about 4,500 years ago, when the city-states of Lagash and Umma went to war in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.

But Adel Darwish, a journalist and co-author of Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East, says modern history has already seen at least two water wars.

“I have [former Israeli prime minister] Ariel Sharon speaking on record saying the reason for going to war [against Arab armies] in 1967 was for water,” Darwish told Al Jazeera.

Some analysts believe Israel continues to occupy the Golan heights, seized from Syria in 1967, due to issues of water control, while others think the occupation is about maintaining high ground in case of future conflicts.

Senegal and Mauritania also fought a war starting in 1989 over grazing rights on the River Senegal. And Syria and Iraq have fought minor skirmishes over the Euphrates River.

Middle East hit hard

UN studies project that 30 nations will be water scarce in 2025, up from 20 in 1990. Eighteen of them are in the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Israel, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. 

“Water too often is treated as a commodity, as an instrument with which one population group can suppress another”

-Ignacio Saiz, Centre for Economic and Social Rights 

Darwish bets that a battle between south and north Yemen will probably be the scene of the next water conflict, with other countries in the region following suit if the situation is not improved.

Water shortages could cost the unstable country 750,000 jobs, slashing incomes in the poorest Arab country by as much as 25 per cent over the next decade, according to a report from the consulting firm McKinsey and Company produced for the Yemeni government in 2010.

Commentators frequently blame Yemen’s problems on tribal differences, but environmental scarcity may be underpinning secessionist struggles in the country’s south and some general communal violence.

“My experience in the first gulf war [when Iraq invaded Kuwait] is that natural resources are always at the heart of tribal conflicts,” Darwish told Al Jazeera. 

The Nile is another potential flash point. In 1989, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak threatened to send demolition squads to a dam project in Ethiopia.

“The Egyptian army still has jungle warfare brigades, even though they have no jungle,” Darwish said. 

On the Nile, cooperation would benefit all countries involved, as they could jointly construct dams and lower the amount of water lost to evaporation, says Anton Earle, director of the Stockholm International Water Institute think-tank.

“If you had an agreement between the parties, there would be more water in the system,” he told Al Jazeera. The likelihood of outright war is low, he says,  but there is still “a lot of conflict” which “prevents joint infrastructure projects from going ahead”.

Differing views

Water scarcity, and potential conflicts arising from it, is linked to larger issues of population growthincreasing food prices and global warming.

There are two general views about how these problems could unfold. The first dates back to the work of Thomas Malthus, an eighteenth century British clergyman and author who believed that: “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.”

In other words, more people and scant resources will invariably lead to discord and violence.

View our special coverage of the population milestone

Recent scholars, including Thomas Homer-Dixon, have analysed various case studies on environmental degradation to conclude that there is not a direct link between scarcity and violence. Instead, he believes inequality, social inclusion and other factors determine the nature and ferocity of strife.

“Unequal power relations within states and conflicts between ethnic groups and social classes will be the greatest source of social tensions rising from deprivation,” said Ignacio Saiz from the social justice group. “Water too often is treated as a commodity, as an instrument with which one population group can suppress another.”

Bolivia, South Africa, India, Botswana, Mexico and even parts of the US have seen vigorous water related protests, says Maude Barlow, author of 16 books and a former senior adviser to the UN on water issues.

“The fight over water privatisation in Cochobamba, Bolivia did turn into a bit of a water war and the army was called in,” Barlow told Al Jazeera. “In Botswana, the government smashed bore holes as part of a terrible move to remove [indigenous bushmen] from the Kalahari desert. Mexico City has been forcibly taking water from the countryside, confiscating water sources from other areas and building fotresses around it, like it’s a gold mine. In India, Coke will get contracts and then build fortresses around the water sources,” taking drinking and irrigation water away from local people. “In Detroit 45,000, officially, have already had their water cut off.”

Human rights

Strife over water, like conflicts more generally, will increasingly happen within states, rather than between them, Barlow says, with large scale agribusiness, mining and energy production taking control over resources at the expense of other users.

The IPPC, the UN panel which analyses climate science, concluded that: “Water and its availability and quality will be the main pressures on and issues for, societies and the environment under climate change.”

Dealing with these pressures will require improved technologies, political will and new ideas about how humans view their relationship with the substance that sustains life.

“People have the right to expect access to a basic life resource like water by virtue of being human, regardless of the social situation they are born into,” Saiz said. “Alongside the worrying development of water scarcity, I am hopeful that we will see increasing struggles to see access to water as a right, and not a priviledge.”

You can follow Chris Arsenault on twitter @AJEchris

Man with bright idea saves 50m gallons of drinking water a day #Goodnews


 

Overflowing Modak Sagar water redirected to Tansa
Man with bright idea saves 50m gallons of drinking water a day
Yogesh.Naik @timesgroup.com, Mumbai Mirror

If the city gets through the next 12 months without suffering a severe water crisis despite what has been an extremely poor monsoon, citizens will have a retired civic engineer to thank.
Prakash Limaye, who retired from the BMC‘s Waterworks department earlier this year, is based 100 km from Mumbai and is single-handedly saving nearly 50 million gallons of potable water — enough for 1 million people daily — from flowing into the Arabian Sea every day. On an average, Mumbai consumes 750 million gallons of water a day.
The idea itself is a combination of simplicity and common sense — terms not easily associated with the civic body.
Located 22 kms apart, Tansa and Modak Sagar dams are chief sources of drinking water to Mumbai. With below average rainfall this season, the water level at the 19-sq-km Tansa lake on Tansa river has stayed well below the desired level.
On the other hand, the eight-sq-km Modak Sagar, situated on the banks of Vaitarna river, started overflowing last week, and the city would have lost millions of gallons of drinking water to the sea had it not been for Limaye’s plan.
The pipeline connecting Modak Sagar to Mumbai passes through the periphery of Tansa. Limaye’s plan involves opening up valves on the pipelines at points closest to Tansa, thereby enabling the excess water to flow into Tansa instead of being wasted.
There are 30 scour valves passing through Tansa, each capable of releasing an average of 10 million gallons of water into the lake. At the moment, the BMC is opening 5-8 valves a day — saving close to 50 million gallons of drinking water in the process every day. In all, 400 million gallons of water have been banked over the last eight days.
Limaye, who has built his retirement home just 2 km from Tansa, is helping sub-engineer Vilas Aher in the operation. These valves need to be opened and shut manually — in fact, with a wrench — every day.
“Modak Sagar fills up quickly and overflows when there is a consistent rainfall of 900 mm, while Tansa requires around 1300-1400 mm of rainfall to fill to the brim. This year, we realised that it would be difficult to fill Tansa, so we proposed that the valves of the pipes that pass on its periphery be opened up,” Limaye said.
“We have opened up five scours of the pipe coming from Modak Sagar towards Tansa and also stopped the water supply (daily share of 100 million gallons) from Tansa. As a result, the level of Tansa goes up by a foot (0.33 metres) daily. Each day, nearly 50 million gallons of water gets transferred from Modak Sagar to Tansa,” Aher said.
Limaye, incidentally, had drawn up this blueprint in 2009, but a delay in getting the required approvals ensured that it was too late by the time the idea was implemented. That year, the city had to face acute water shortage, with the BMC imposing 15 per cent cuts on residential consumers.
With adequate rainfall in the next two years, the idea was as good as shelved. But with the monsoons barely registering, Limaye was at hand to prevent the taps from running dry.

 

Privatisation of water supply set in motion #wakeupcall


SATURDAY, 04 AUGUST 2012 00:08 RAJESH KUMAR | NEW DELHI

Following Planning Commission’s directions, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has approved a proposal to involve Public Private Partnership (PPP) for better distribution and maintenance of water supply in Malviya Nagar, Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar in south Delhi areas.

DJB’s high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Friday approved a proposal to this effect. The Delhi Government will brief the Planning Commission about the proposal. Under the project, the entire distribution network in a particular area would be handed over to the private parties. They would be in-charge of maintaining the water pipeline networks. They would be responsible for repairing all leaking pipelines in the locality.

The decision was taken to save distribution losses which ranges between 40 to 50 per cent, sources said.

According to the proposal, a total of 32.21 square km would be covered in the pilot project.  Messers Suez Environment India Private Limited and, SPML Infra Limited and Degremont would look into Malviya Nagar project while M/s SPML Infra Limited, Tahal Consulting Engineers and Hagihon Jerusalem Water and Wastewater Works would look into Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar distribution system. The Degremont is the same company, handling the Sonia Vihar water treatment plant which supplies water in South Delhi areas.

The contracts would be awarded for 10-12 years for the key operators. Under the project, the assets will remain with the DJB and the Board would pay to private parties for distribution and maintenance.

Cost of Rs 253.30 crore is estimated for Malviya Nagar project, including recovery of 30 per cent operator’s contribution in Rs 87.68 crore (Rs 171.62 crore – Rs 83 crore) of rehabilitation and development cost. For Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar projects, the estimated cost is Rs 201 crore. The areas to be covered in Malviya Nagar include Khirki, Saket, Adhchini, Begumpuri, Chirag Delhi, Hauz Rani, Shivalik, Pushp Vihar, Sheikh Sarai, Qutub Institutional Areas, Nav Jeevan, Sarvodaya Enclave; Qutub, Lal Tanki, Bawaji Wala, Kishan garh and Garhwal colony in Mehrauli areas; West End Enclave, Shanti Niketan, Anand Niketan in Vasant Vihar areas.

After the meeting, Dikshit told that the Planning Commission of India had approved the proposal and this model would be different. “In this model, the assets will remain with DJB. This will ensure up-gradation to un-interrupted and pressurised water supply, reduction in the coping costs, minimal chances of contamination, free of cost change in service lines, prompt grievances redressal and improvement in services to consumers at no extra cost. It will increase revenue generation and will also reduce energy consumption,” she said.

It may be noted that DJB supply 76 MLD water per day to Malviya Nagar; 10-13 MLD in Mehrauli and 7 MLD in Vasant Vihar. Total 32,148 jal board connections are registered in Malviya Nagar which has a population of 3.82 lakh, while 7,216 connections in Mehrauli having population of 1.87 lakh. In Vasant Vihar, the population is nearly 50,000 and estimated connections are 6,847.

Since 2002, the Delhi Government has been planning to initiate water sector reforms on the lines of the proposals given by the World Bank. DJB also appointed PricewaterHouseCoopers as the consultant for the project. PWC suggested that DJB enter into contracts with companies who would manage the distribution network. But by 2006, the whole issue died down due to large scale protests. In 2011, the Delhi Government appointed a committee under the chairman of PK Tripathi to suggest a roadmap for water distribution reforms.

160 sorties failed but BMC to go for #cloudseeding again


 

This image explaining cloud seeding shows the ...

This image explaining cloud seeding shows the chemical either silver iodine or dry ice being dumped onto the cloud which then becomes a rain shower. The process shown in the upper right is what is happening in the cloud and the process of condensation to the introduced chemicals. Sources for image: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Linah Baliga, TNN Aug 1, 2012,

MUMBAI: Having failed to make artificial rains despite 160 attempts in 2009, the civic body will resort to the same technique this year to make for the shortfall. On Thursday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will hold a video conference with officials from India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Israeli firm Mekorot to decide on cloud seeding methods in catchment areas of lakes supplying water to the city. Mekorot will assist BMC with technological infrastructure like radar and aircraft.

Though civic officials admitted that last time they were unsuccessful, they said this year they are trying to correct the past mistakes. “This time we are doing it under expert guidance, as we had not sought help from agencies like IMD and IITM earlier. After discussing it with IITM they have come to a conclusion that cloud seeding is now a well established science. It’s a proven thing that cloud seeding makes inefficient clouds efficient,” additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota said.

 

IITM has told BMC that Israel has extensively developed its technology on cloud seeding and has been using it for over 50 years. “Fortunately, we had a MoU with Israel’s water and energy department in June, last year. Since the past 15 days, we have been in touch with Israel’s national water company Mekorot to undertake this experiment,” he said.

In 2009, attempts were made over Tansa and Modak Sagar lakes with the help of Hyderabad-based Agni Aviation and the civic body spent Rs 8 crore on the project. Civic officials from the hydraulic department claimed that the experiment failed as BMC was unable to calculate the difference in amount of rainfall in catchment areas after cloud seeding was carried out.

Jalota said that the last experiment in 2009 at Tansa and Modak Sagar was done with the help of an aircraft and also by burning silver iodide crystals.

This time around, the experiment will involve sprinkling of silver iodide on clouds over Tansa, Bhatsa, Upper Vaitarna and Modak Sagar lakes to induce precipitation and subsequently artificial rains. “The technicians will be sitting inside the aircraft to monitor every step. The cloud seeding will be done at the base of the cloud when the cloud is having an updraft and has a reflectivity between 30dbz and 35dbz. This is the time the cloud is best suited for cloud seeding. It takes half-an-hour for the clouds to be efficient and it rains. The average speed of the cloud will be 15 metres per second,” Jalota said.

He said the civic body is in touch with Mekorot’s Mumbai base in Bandra Kurla Complex. “The modalities will be worked out on Thursday, whether or not to use IMD’s radar. We will also decide on whether Mekorot will provide us with just the aircraft or even manpower to operate the aircraft,” said Jalota.

If all goes well, Mumbaikars will also get an additional 455 million litres per day, as gates of Middle Vaitarna dam will be opened and water from the dam will be released by September.

Don’t make water supply out to be rocket science

The BMC should stop looking at outlandish ideas for maintaining supply to taps. Statistics indicate that Mumbai would not have to go through water cuts had the BMC simply turned its attention to plugging the leaks in the distribution chain and the widespread pilferage. The BMC has managed to keep the level of water cut down to 10 per cent this year but some long-term planning and attention to basic details could have done away with even this bit of pain.

 

 

 

 

Exclusive jurisdiction of states over water hinders its proper management



Status of water

Nikhilesh Jha : Wed Aug 01 2012, 01:31 hrs

Exclusive jurisdiction of states over water hinders its proper management

Many significant developments have taken place in the past few months regarding water resources management (WRM) in the country. The Supreme Court, in February, gave its go-ahead to the interlinking of rivers and asked the government to ensure that the project is implemented expeditiously. The judgment seems to have more opponents than supporters. Then, inaugurating the India Water Week in April, Prime Minister Manmohan Singhobserved that a problem that hindered better WRM was the fragmented and inadequate institutional and legal structure for water, and that there was an urgent need for reforms.

A solution to the water problem requires a revisiting of the entire gamut of WRM. The subject “water” is placed in the Constitution in Entry 17 of List II (State List) of Schedule VII. However, the caveat is Entry 56 of List I (Union List), which says, “Regulations and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent to which such regulation and development under the control of the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest.” Unfortunately, the Centre has made little use of the powers vested in it vide Entry 56 of List I. The result is that by virtue of Article 246 read with Entry 17, List II, states have exclusive jurisdiction over waters that are located within their territories, including inter-state rivers and river valleys. It is arguably this status of water in the Constitution that constrains the highest in the executive and the judiciary, despite their pronouncements on and commitment to resolving the problem. It also makes a mockery of the National Water Policy that declares water a “prime natural resource, a basic human need and a precious national asset”. It has also stopped the Centre from establishing allocation rules and clearly defined water rights among states that have unending disputes over the sharing of inter-state water resources. The latest example is the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal, which has turned into a warzone, with a battery of lawyers, technical staff and irrigation department officials from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh fighting to win the maximum allocation of the Krishna river for their respective state.

The Centre has also been reluctant to take a proactive position on the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (CLNNUIW), a document adopted by the UN on May 21, 1997, pertaining to the use and conservation of all waters that cross international boundaries, including surface and ground water. Unfortunately, the convention is not yet ratified. Alongside the US, China, Canada and Australia, India is among the major opponents of the CLNNUIW. A ratification by India would have at least given it the support of other ratifying nations to pressure China against the diversion of the Brahmaputra. Several Chinese projects in west-central Tibet may have a bearing on river water flow into India as well as Bangladesh. There are also reports that China is planning to divert 200 billion cubic metres (BCM) of the Brahmaputra from south to north to feed the Yellow River. If this is true, India will face a severe crisis once the Chinese projects are completed. Many of the hydel projects in the Northeast may have to be shelved. Of the 1,900 BCM of river runoff available in the country, about 600 BCM is generated in the Brahmaputra, one can imagine what would happen if the bulk of this is diverted by China.

According to a recent World Bank report, entitled “India’s Water Economy: Bracing for a Turbulent Future”, “faced with poor water supply services, farmers and urban dwellers alike have resorted to helping themselves by pumping out ground water through tube-wells… it has led to rapidly declining water tables and critically depleted aquifers, and is no longer sustainable (at many places).” The report adds that “government actions — including the provision of highly subsidised or even free power — have exacerbated rather than addressed the problem.”

India is getting seriously water-stressed; and we need to act fast. Water has to be treated not as a local resource, but a global resource. We need to see if a change in its constitutional status is required. Similarly, we need to proactively decide on our stand on the proposed UN convention. Our opposition is not helping us nor the cause of humanity. We also need to enhance our water-storage capacity, as we suffer the most from the vagaries of the monsoon.

The river-linking project, alongside a chain of water-conservation projects, would offer a solution.

The writer is joint secretary and CVO, CPWD. Views are personal
express@expressindia.com

Signature campaign against draft Indian National Water Policy 2012


English: child enjoying clean and safe drinkin...

Image via Wikipedia

Join People’s Campaign for Right to Water-Karnataka in opposing Draft National Water Policy 2012 prepared by Ministry of Water Resources and demand its immediate withdrawal.
Water is a life and precious resource, which should be carefully conserved and available for use by all living beings for now and in future. We oppose the introduction of the very concept of water as an economic good, we will strongly oppose the anti-constitutional approach of providing water only to those who can afford to pay for it. Water cannot be commodified and should not be traded.

It is the responsibility of the Government to provide clean and safe drinking water to rural and urban areas. Any attempts to privatise in the guise of public-private partnership, outsourcing of operations and management, or other functions amounts to abdication of this responsibility. In carrying out this responsibility the Government should ensure the Right to Water to every citizen. This right is linked with the Right to Food (security). Therefore such a right cannot be an outcome of tradable, competitive economic water rights. The policy should outline various measures to implement the Right to Water, with adequate funding and technology as required. This must lead to improved public health and human well-being.

The Peoples Campaign for Right to Water – Karnataka (PCRTW-K)

Demands :

1. The Government has a responsibility to provide clean and safe drinking water.

2. Public-private partnership, outsourcing of operations and management amounts to abdication of responsibility.

3. The Government must commit to time bound assured universal coverage with implementation through democratic elected local Governments in urban (ULG’s) and Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI’s) in rural areas.

4. The Government is to work towards implementing the universal human right to water and sanitation including introduction of legal measures as required.

5. Policy and implementation to ensure that none can be denied water based on lack of affordability.

6. Water is not a commodity and cannot be traded or treated as economic good.

We invite you to join us in this campaign by signing the e-petition below as soon as possible and also encourage your friends to do so.The signatures and petition will be submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources and the Planning Commission, GoI.

Please sign petition here

 

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