Nagpur: Calm, composed, yet undeterred by criticism, and confident enough to draw excellence in water supply system of Nagpur, Arun Lakhani, Chairman of Orange City Water, has been spearheading the movement to streamline water distribution network in Nagpur for over 3 years. Hailing from a family that has high academics flowing through their blood, Arun Lakhani was quite inspired by his father who did his M.Tech from Banaras Hindu University, and later at IIS, Banglore. He too followed the suit and completed his B.Sc/Tech & M.Tech from LIT after pursuing his B.Sc. from Amravati. He did his school education in a remote village of Malkapur in Buldhana district.
Clearly a man of vision and a harbinger of change, Lakhani had to go through series of highs and lows during 3 years of journey with OCW, a 50:50 joint venture of Lakhani’s Vishwaraj Environment Pvt. Ltd. and Veolia Water India Ltd, the world leader in water business. However, Lakhani has taken every challenge heads on and put the best foot forward in getting the best water supply system in the town. He however believes that a lot is needed to be done in the next 10 years, for which OCW is moving in the right direction.
In a freewheeling interview with Nagpur Today, OCW
Director, Arun Lakhani spoke at stretch about the issues pertaining to 24×7 water supply scheme, essential metering for conscious use of water, the challenges and public resistance, sewage treatment for smart water management, his close to heart Ganga Cleanliness Drive and his professional journey so far. The excerpts
In the initial days of, Lakhani ventured into petro chemicals and brought in Maha Gas – the non-subsidized LPG cylinders. There they set up the smaller plants to reduce distribution cost. They partnered with a Dutch multinational and ran into a deal in 1998 to bottle commercial cylinders. However the project had to face stiff competition from subsidized cylinders, however it was disinvested to the multinational who run it under the name of Super Gas. Then came the opportunity of Roads and water and Orange City Water was formed in collaboration with Veolia Water France.
City has enough water
Lakhani is of the view that there is enough water availability for 25 lakh population of Nagpur, only proper system is to be put into place. The city consumes 450-500 MLD water on daily basis, of which, around 175 MLD is utilized for domestic purpose and 150 MLD goes in commercial consumption. Against this daily requirement, the city has the daily supply of 650-700 MLD of water, received majorly from Kanhan and Pench water reservoirs. “An effective distribution is required to cope up with uniform equitable water supply across various areas of Nagpur,” he said.
Pressurized water system
Lakhani said OCW has initiated a 24×7 pressurized water system that ensures contamination free water to the consumers. With 24×7 pressurized water system, the water is supplied in full pressure that passes through the pipelines which are hundreds of years old. Pressurized water supply keeps contamination in check from the leakage points.
Challenges for 24×7 water supply scheme
Lakhani says one of the biggest challenges OCW is facing is the locating old pipelines and getting metered house service connections to various households. He said that for water security people’s support is needed. The Prime Minister on June 25, 2015 chose Nagpur’s 24×7 water supply scheme as the “Best Practice Model Project” in the launch program of Amrut scheme. He says improvement will be gradual and results cannot come overnight as against the 60 years of ULB implementation it is only 3 years with public private partnership. He also said that an educational drive like My City My Water campaign must be initiated to bring awareness among the general public and their long term benefits. He was of the view that media should play an active role in driving the city towards a reformation in water supply.
Sewage Water should be utilized for good
He said most of the sewage water, treated and untreated, is going waste without any utility and creates health hazard by contaminating fresh water bodies . A close look at the consumption statistics reveals that 11% of water supply is used for domestic purpose while 89% of it is utilized for irrigation and industries. If not for domestic consumption, the treated sewage water can be best used for irrigation and industrial purpose which adds to extra stock of water for domestic purpose. The sewage water can be sold to power stations and other industrial purposes as more than 80% of net water consumption is done by industries. He said the sewage water is being completely overlooked and almost 500 MLD of water which can be recovered from sewage is not utilized.
NamamiGange – A Doable Project
Quiz him about Namai Gange – a national mission for clean ganga, and Lakhani gets candid in airing his views over the project, the one he is having keen interest in. Despite the odds and rituals making the project seemingly impossible to be accomplished, Lakhani appeared quite positive about the mission. He said the previous government also launched Ganga Cleanliness Mission but the project could not progress in right direction in the absence of accountability. This time, the mission has been kick started withpossibly the private partnership model and so the work is accountable. “Unless accountability is framed, the model cannot function smoothly,” he quipped. Citing the examples of Thames river in London and Danube river in Europe, which have attained 100% cleanliness, he said Namami Gange project can be better implemented with fourth P in the PPP – the people. The people are the protectors of any scheme in larger interest. Be it 24×7 water supply scheme in Nagpur or the Ganga Cleanliness Drive, he said larger communication is required for a project of 30 years. When asked if they would wish to participate in Ganga programme, Lakhani said if required from us, we would surely be a part of this noble campaign.
OCW’s on the course of its journey
Lakhani said that apart from proper funding, people’s support is also required for metering and pipe laying which will take their mission to next level in the coming years. “Water Projects are Social Projects “ A complete refurbishment and laying of pipelines is required to be done in the next 10 years. “We must have committed errors in the past but we still have positive bent of mind towards providing the city with the best water supply network.
Among the measures that were taken under OCW are 24×7 toll free helpline, online bill payment facility, GPS tracking of tanker movement to curb malpractices, annual tank cleaning by indigenously developed technology, old and complicated valves replaced and flow meters installed at crucial network locations.
Till date 180 kms of pipe laying has been done through horizontal directional drilling out of @ 500 kms. . Clarifying his stand over the increasing complaints of the dugout bylanes lying for days, he said that it was only to avoid the digging process. “One cannot dig the same stretch first for one task and then for other,” he said. He appealed that it is imperative for the people to get the metering done for the conscious use of water and lend their support in putting 24×7 water supply scheme on fast track.