Saturday, December 13, 2014

Water supply privatization: Madhya Pradesh govt forced to step back ahead of local polls; but doubts exist

BJP poster promising no privatization of water
By Our Representative
In a clear example of why privatisation of a basic service such as water supply is not an easy option, the Madhya Pradesh government has been forced to take a step backward from its ambitious plan to privatize water supply in different towns and cities of the state, with a top NGO claiming credit for the success. The voluntary organization working in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, which has been in the forefront of advocacy against water privatization, has suggested in a statement, things reached a flashpoint only during the municipal elections held in November 2014.
Privatisation of water supply has been a buzzword in several states, including "progressive" Gujarat, but has not picked up anywhere. In Madhya Pradesh, where the government took a step towards it in some towns, things turned out to be extremely difficult. “The main election issue during the campaign was the private water supply project. It was also part of the local manifesto during the campaign”, said Manthan, citing the banners put up by political parties in Khandwa town disowning privatization of water.
In fact, things came to such a pass, Manthan said, that during the election campaign state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had to announce publicly that water services would not be privatized and connections would not be metered.
http://www.manthan-india.org/IMG/pdf/Khandwa_book_FINAL.pdf
Manthan report on
water privatization 
However, the NGO, which issued its statement a week after the election results for the state’s civic bodies were announced on December 4, in which the BJP romped home with thumping majority, suggested the turnaround is still not complete. “Such announcements have been done earlier as well but with any action”, it said, adding, there have been announcements by BJP earlier, too, there is no guarantee that announcement by the Chief Minister would be implemented and "water services would not be privatized".
Manthan said, already, municipal water services have been handed over to private water companies across various towns in Madhya Pradesh, and matter became particularly controversial in Khandwa town, which was the focus area of the NGO’s study on water privatization (click HERE to download).
Manthan said, the project is being implemented in Khandwa under the Central government scheme Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), and under the project, the construction, operation and maintenance contract for 25 years has been awarded to Vishwa Infrastructure and Services Pvt. Ltd, a Hyderabad-based company. The private operator have even taken a loan from International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank to fund the project. All this remains intact.
Congress campaign against water privatization
Manthan said, the chief minister was forced to make a statement against privatisation because of continued opposition to the project by the local people.. “In December 2012 when the notification for the private control of water services was published, more than 60 per cent of the water supply connection holders formally wrote to the municipal corporation protesting against the private water supply project”, Manthan said.
“Eventually”, it added, “Due to public opinion the state government formed an independent committee, which included governmental and non-governmental experts along with people's representative to investigate the objections raised by the residents against the project. The committee in its report rejected "the private control of domestic water supply services and held the municipal corporation accountable for water supply to residents.”
Despite this, Mathan said, “No decision was taken by the state government in this regard." Worse, "on October 20, 2014 just before the municipal elections in the state the notification was reissued leading to local campaigns." However, as protests picked up, the state government announced that it was "cancelling the notification.”
Even the Aam Admi Party, campaigning against privatization of water during elections, announced to launch Chipko movement against “shutting down of existing water resources.” Yet, even now no formal decision has been taken about it.

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