Nagpur: It is now well known that Nagpur was the first city in India that was selected for the 24*7 Water supply project that government plans to introduce eventually all over the country.
The proposal, instead of being welcomed, had met with resistance from some Activists and nay sayers who insisted that ‘water was a natural resource, it could not be given into private hands’.
Much water has flown under the bridge since then ( pun intended) and this month, March 2016, OCW completes four years of its foundation. Nagpur Today (NT ) Associate Editor had an exclusive dialogue with OCW, Chief Executive Officer Sanjoy Roy to find out what milestones have been achieved in this time span.
NT – Congratulations Mr. Roy on OCW completing 4 years of operations. What would you rate as your most significant achievement?
Roy – I would say it is the equitable distribution of water in Nagpur. When we took over in 2012, there were some areas that were getting round the clock water, some 6-8 hours a day, some on alternate days and some areas not a drop!
One such area was Naik talao populated by poor people mostly, which had struggled without water connection for 16 years. There were some other areas also that were suffering from the same fate but some of them had alternate sources of water, the situation was not so bad. Here, there was nothing – we worked on a war footing and laid a pipe line in a month that now ensures 6-8 hours of water supply for this area inhabited by almost 6000 people.
Since then, 81 such deprived areas are connected to OCW pipeline. 31 areas have been converted from alternate water supply to daily.
There was also the problem of very low pressure in some areas. We have seen a 5 litre container take an hour to fill! Measures like plugging leakages and repairing pipe lines along with laying new ones has solved this problem for 128 areas.
NT – What has been your modus operandi for achieving all this in such a short time span?
Roy – We have divided the entire city consisting of 68 command areas into four zones – East, West, North and South. We are tackling each area individually, the goal being to make water available 24*7 (also known as uninterrupted water supply project) in no of command areas by end of 2016.
In last 4 years, OCW-NMC have successfully replaced almost 503 km pipeline across city. From this around 225 km pipeline has been replaced by using Trenchless Technology (Using Horizontal Drilling Machine: HDD) OCW has replaced approx. 1,13,162 house hold connections during these period.
In layman’s terms trenchless technology means they lay pipe lines without digging up roads – how often have we commented about how new roads are dug up all across no sooner they have been built? With this method only the entry and exit points of the pipe line necessitate digging up soil – then the pipeline is inserted underground using special equipment.
NT – What were consumers perception about the idea of 24*7 water supply to their homes? What was their actual experience?
Roy – Good question! Many Nagpurians first asked – ” why 24 hours water supply? Will that not lead to wastage of water and very high water bills?” We have shown that both notions were wrong. When housewives know water supply is assured all the time, they do not waste time and energy filling up water in the kitchen and bathrooms – they want to err on the safer side, so more water than needed is stored when water supply is for limited time. Next day, much of the stored water gets thrown away so fresh water can be stored! This habit did not go away easily so people kept storing water, while using available tap water. Also, they were not in the habit of shutting taps properly or checking internal leakages. So the bills went up initially. But very soon, they became assured that water supply was indeed regular and continuous so they stopped storing. We educated them constantly on using water judiciously so this precious commodity gets preserved and within 3 – 6 months most households had the pleasant experience of water bills that were less than before -i.e. when there was no continuous supply.
Another benefit of 24*7 water is that there is always water flowing in the pipelines so there is no contamination due to sewer/drain water. Pipe line is with internal water pressure , hence foreign water cannot contaminate With the modern chlorination process’ we use and this factor, now Nagpur water is 97 to 99% pure.
So ladies, no need to invest in expensive Water purifiers like RO etc. In Nagpur, you can drink tap water safely. That is what Mr. Roy himself and all OCW staff drinks!
NT – How much of Nagpur gets 24*7 water supply now?
Roy – At present, almost 28, 245 House Service Connections (HSC’s)( 1.31 lakh population) at 5 command areas as Shanti Nagar (Satranjipura zone), Deshpande Lay Out (Lakadganj Zone), Dhantoli (Dharampeth zone) , Laxminagar old area (Laxmi Nagar zone) & Governor House area have already converted in 24×7.
Further, 15698 HSC’s with approximate 1.02 lakh population from 3 command areas of Nandanvan (Nehru Nagar), Laxminagar New ESR, Pratap Nagar are under trial for 24×7 water supply.
While Bastarwadi –I, Bastawrwadi-II and Nara Existing ESR (Asi Nagar Zone) with approx. HSC’s of 12, 286 and population of 79,000are proposed for 24×7 in this year.
This means almost 3.15 lakh population (over 48, 230 HSC’s) from 11 command areas will get benefits of 24×7 water supply soon.
NT – What are the problems you have encountered while achieving this?
Roy – People have mostly co operated and been grateful for our efforts. There have been complications in some areas like Satranjipura Zone where the NMC pipeline goes to other areas through Mominpura. This area was getting round the clock water, there were ( and still are) many illegal connections, and lot of water was being wasted. Thus water was not flowing to other areas that fell ‘downstream’. When we tried to solve the bottleneck, Mominpura residents felt their water supply would be reduced so they have been resisting change.
“But we do not resort to punitive action or compulsion. It is OCW’s philosophy to take along everyone amicably and convince them that change would be beneficial to all.” ( Just then a Corporator from one of the trouble spots called and was sounding irate. Mr. Roy promised to visit the area first thing on Monday and said they would do a joint survey of what the problem was and find a solution).
People are gradually beginning to co operate and bottle necks are being removed. We will continue our efforts tirelessly.
NT – How big is the issue of illegal connections? What progress has been made on that front?
Roy – Illegal water connections are not a problem with only Nagpur, it is all over the country. My team did a survey and identified households/ establishments with such connections. We did not send them notices or take harsh action. Instead we asked them to apply for legal connection, which would be given free of cost. They would then be given water bill at a flat, minimum rate till meter was installed and their household connected to the pipeline. This cost of meterisation and new house service connection is included in OCW project and then billing would start according to meter readings.
We are proud to note that we have reduced illegal water connections considerabily.
NT – OCW is drawing water from Kanhan river and Pench for Nagpurians. Is it depriving local people of this precious resource and is there any antagonism about it?
Roy – No, it is quite the opposite! With the new pipe lines we are laying that have the latest technology ‘electrofusion’ joints and with most leakages plugged, water is being conserved and surplus left over… so we are in a position to offer 48 million litres a day to rural Nagpur areas like Hudkeshwar, Besa and Narsala – which are outside NMC areas. We connect them to the main pipe line and then internal pipeline to households is laid by the local bodies.
Our philosophy is that water is a very precious commodity and must be shared by all judiciously. Our motto is clean, clear water at every consumer,s tap – whether urban or rural.
Beside this, local population is being employed at intake points. We have trained local youth and they are gainfully employed without having to migrate to cities for work.
NT – What about the fast mushrooming non NMC command areas where many colonies have come up? How is OCW helping them?
Roy – Our mandate is to ensure water supply to only NMC areas; but we are supporting NMC supply bulk water ( through tankers) wherever required.
Many of these areas have bore wells. We are maintaining the same.
NT – Final question. How do we believe that OCW supplies clean, ready to drink water as per your claim?
Roy – Do not take our word for it, this claim is backed by regular, strenuous checks at our end, which are verified again by Government labs. We undertake annual cleaning of EVERY ESR, and ensure effective chlorination and non-contamination of our pipe lines. We carry water about 35 – 60 Kms. We collect1700 no of samples in every month from the tail end point of pipeline near meter and have it tested at our own labs and Government labs .All our samples pass with flying colours!
….Sanjoy Roy in conversation with Sunita Mudaliar