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Bangalore water board upbeat on project to plug leakage

Madhumathi D.S.

Bangalore , Dec. 7

SIX months ago, the Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board (BWSSB) launched a pilot project in an old zone of the city to plug some 35 per cent loss in its water distribution system. Perking up its precious revenue and morale was the motive. The effect of the project is already telling and the board is so buoyed that it will be bringing the entire city under the project next year.

The utility also plans to put a lasting clamp on leakage across the city by delegating its management to two or three contractors for 10 years, Mr M.N. Vidyashankar, Chairman, BWSSB, told Business Line. For, the board learnt early on from projects elsewhere that controlling leakage is the easier task, sustaining it isn't so.

Extending the project to check unaccounted-for water (UFW) to the rest of the city would involve a funding of Rs 400 crore, again from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation that is also financing the pilot project. The bids are to be called around June 2004.

The Rs 48-crore UFW pilot is on for 18 months and has been financed out of the Rs 100-crore savings from the just-completed Phase 1 of the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme-4.

A consortium of Thames Water Asia, Singapore, and L&T is executing it. The project involves a tight, 24-hour automated monitoring of the flow and rehabilitation of aged pipelines in 16 select `district monitoring areas' or DMAs. The Thames-L&T team will manage the project in these areas for another 18 months, after which the maintenance of these areas will be tendered out for a longer tenure.

BWSSB expects the pilot covering 40,000 households to help bring down its distribution losses to 10-15 per cent. The initiative has also raised the hope that the current turnover of Rs 30 crore — albeit with a heavy power bill of 18 crore a year — can be pushed up to Rs 40 crore.

The first of its kind in the country, "it should be an eye-opener for everyone," according to Mr Vidyashankar. For one exemplary DMA, Ulsoor, where the board pumps in 2,900 million litres (ml) each month but has so far collected revenue for only 2,000 ml, the board can soon start getting account for an additional 500 ml of water. This translates to higher monthly revenue of Rs 74 lakh or Rs 8.5 crore a year from that area. At an IRR of 25 per cent, Mr Vidyashankar was excited that "We can recover the JBIC loan amount in just four years." It has other benefits like seven-day supply of quality water, elimination of contamination and no digging of roads, he said.

The project to check UFW is part of the AusAID-assisted 25-year Master Plan up to 2025 that touches on all activities of the board such as augmentation, leakage reduction, rehabilitation of water and sewerage network.

The water board has also moved its papers for a Rs 3,200-crore JBIC loan for phase 2 of CWSS-4, which will augment the water supply to the city by 500 ml a day. Bids may be called in the early half of 2004. The project should be commissioned by 2009-10 and take care of the city's needs till 2020.

Alongside, the board has been selling 5.5 mld of recycled waste water at Rs 19 per kl to industries like BEL, Escorts and Wheel & Axle Plant from its Yelahanka tertiary treatment plant. A deal with KPCL for the V.Valley TTP is being finalised while the TTPs at Hebbal and K&C Valley, with a total yield of 80 mld, are to be contracted.

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