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Villagers To Pay More For Drinking Water  
Source:   The Hindu City   : Bhubaneswar Published On   07-06-2010  


Even as rural Orissa is struggling to cope with scorching heat and acute drinking water crisis, rising power cost has made life miserable for those, who had even drinking water sources available at their doorstep.

Village Water and Sanitation Committees VWSC in different districts of the State have started to increase monthly user fees as the enhanced power cost has made drinking water in villages costly. Villagers as well as civil rights activists have long been demanding a rational power tariff for drinking water projects in villages.

VWSC were expecting that their pleas would be heard during recent revision of power tariff in the State. Instead, villagers were asked to pay power bill at commercial rate for ‘Rural Pipe Water Supply'. They are now paying Rs. 4.20 per unit for drinking water pumping in rural areas which is Rs. 1.10 per unit more than the previous tariff.

“We have 100 water consumers in our village. Due to rise in power cost, we are revising monthly collection. Villagers will have to pay Rs. 100 instead of Rs. 50 for drinking water purposes,” said Rabindra Jena, member of VWSC of Gopimohanpur in Balasore district. Knowing that agriculture carries economic benefit for people, the electricity tariff has been subsidised for the sector.

“Drinking water is all about human life and as a fundamental right of the people require a more relaxed electricity tariff, not the present tariff at the highest slab. Subsidy for agriculture is a good step. But this, rather in more subsidised manner, should also be applicable in case of drinking water,” said Bikash Pati, programme officer of RCDC, a city-based voluntary organisation.

Activists have sounded alarm bell saying ‘Rural Pipe Water Supply' is the first step towards privatisation in drinking water, as private players would take-up the systems when community would fail to maintain those. Besides, high power cost, the perpetual power failure has spelt trouble for smooth functioning of the system. VWSC have decided to start postcard campaign to generate awareness among intellectuals that they need better.

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