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‘We Do Not Have A Water Shortage But Management Shortage’

The water crisis is reaching a critical level, given the gross misuse and wastage. More than crisis, there is a mismanagement of water

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While cities are struggling to supply even two hours of water supply to their citizens, Nagpur became the first city in India to supply 24x7 water to its population of 2.7 million.  Anuradha Shukla speaks to Arun Lakhani, Chairman and Managing Director, Vishvaraj Infrastructure, who has helped the city to achieve its water supply by efficient water management. Edited excerpts:

How grave is the water crisis in urban India?

The water crisis is reaching a critical level, given the gross misuse and wastage. More than crisis, there is a mismanagement of water. With rising population, continuous exploitation of resources, without replenishing it, we will reach a situation where there will be no water left. So to deal with the problem effectively, it is required that we treat the problem on a larger scale as holistic management of water resources.

Tell us something about the Nagpur Project?

Nagpur is the first successful model of Public Private Partnership in India in the water supply system, which we have taken to the next level called 4P. The fourth ‘P’ is for “people” which is necessary to evolve partnership in a true sense. We have engaged the citizens in a big way, which involves thousands of school and college students, mohalla meetings, citizen groups so that they understand the importance of the availability of 24X7 water supply and that also healthy and clean water and the economic benefits of it.

Apart From Nagpur, are there any other cities, where you are working?

We have recently finished projects in five township in Karnataka. We are also doing Pimpari-Chinchawad (near Pune). Apart from that we are also doing a project on sewerage and water treatment project in Jaipur City. We are also exploring opportunities in other cities.

What is the total market for water management in India? What kind of growth do you see in the future?

Water management industry is a very important industry and it is just beginning to emerge. But it is also a difficult industry. It will require at least $10 billion to $12 billion of investment in the next five to ten years because of the current situation where we are losing 50 per cent of water which is non revenue water. Also we have only 3-8 per cent of sewage treatment capacity in our cities. I am sure that in coming years many more investments will come, otherwise, we feel we will create a monster.  

What went wrong with India’s water management?

India is not a rain deficient country. We do not have a water shortage but management shortage. We have enough water supply. We have somehow forgotten about operation and maintenance of the existing water resources. We have invested billions of rupees, but unless we have a clear model which is accountable, sustainable and efficient it cannot work. We have so many schemes but do we have a plan to reach the last mile connectivity? We have to think of reaching the last mile. We need a holistic vision and not some piecemeal programme. Also there should be accountability attached to it.

Our first step should be to replenish as much water as possible. Given this, steps like rainwater harvesting are a definite way forward.

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Magazine 14 October 2017