The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has been emphasising the importance of 24×7 water supply for quite some time now. According to the service level benchmark laid down by the MoUD, it is desirable for all cities to have such a system in place. To achieve this, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had awarded a 10-year water supply contract for the Vasant Vihar and Mehrauli areas to MVV Water Utility Private Limited in 2012. The scope of work in the contract comprises supplying uninterrupted water, maintaining pressure, installing meters, addressing complaints, etc.
Apart from ensuring uninterrupted water supply to consumers, the project will also focus on reducing the non-revenue water (NRW) component by plugging leakages, providing metered connections to all households and improving the revenue collection mechanism. These initiatives will serve not only to improve the financial health of the civic agency, but also make water supply an economically viable activity for the service provider. It also involves the implementation of good engineering practices, regular water audits, establishment of IT systems to improve service provision, regular rehabilitation and repair of the pipeline network and other infrastructure, and the implementation of innovative operations and maintenance (O&M) strategies.
Prior to its privatisation, water supply operations in the Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar areas suffered from various problems because of the location of the colonies: at the periphery of the water transmission network originating from the Palam reservoir. The key problems faced in these areas included intermittent water supply, an inadequate distribution network, low customer satisfaction, a large number of unregistered and illegal connections, and poor maintenance of existing infrastructure. It was noted that on an average, the Vasant Vihar area received water for one to three hours per day, while the Mehrauli area was supplied water only for a few hours in two days. Moreover, the NRW component in the total water supply was as high as 32 per cent because of the large number of illegal connections. For instance, at the time of handing over its operations, DJB had only 7,216 registered water connections in Mehrauli, which had a population of 0.19 million. A similar situation was witnessed in Vasant Vihar, where the total number of water connections stood at 6,847 against a total population of 50,000.
The water distribution network also suffered from frequent leakages, lack of pressure management, and inadequate size of the pipeline. In addition, no detailed engineering design was followed while laying distribution pipelines in the area, which led to an inadequate distribution infrastructure. Therefore, in order to improve service delivery in accordance with the MoUD benchmarks, reduce the contamination of water supply, and increase access to piped water supply, DJB awarded the contract for the O&M of water assets in Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar to MVV Water Utility. The latter was formed by a consortium of SPML Infra Limited, TAHAL Group BV and Hagihon Jerusalem Water and Wastewater Works Limited. The contract was awarded for a period of 10 years – two years of construction and rehabilitation and eight years of O&M. The estimated cost of the project stands at Rs 2.01 billion, which will be funded entirely by DJB.
Scope of work
The Mehrauli command area of the project comprises Qutub, Lal Tanki, Bawaji Wala, Kishangarh and Garhwal Colony, while the Vasant Vihar project area comprises West End Enclave, Shanti Niketan and Anand Niketan. As per the contract, the water assets will remain with DJB, while the O&M responsibility of the same will be assigned to the private player. The water tariff for the service area will also be fixed by DJB, and remain at par with the rest of the city area. The private operator will be compensated by a performance-based management fee, which will be calculated on the basis of six key indices – consumer coverage, functionality of consumer meters, resolution of consumer complaints, quality of water, continuity of supply and pressure of supply.
The scope of work under the contract includes improving the availability of potable water, upgrading the water distribution network to reduce leakages in the system, rehabilitation of pumping stations, and setting up a 24×7 complaint redressal system. It also involves taking steps for the maintenance of adequate pressure in the supply system, provision of new water connections, installation of water meters, information dissemination, etc.
To achieve these objectives, a 78 km water pipeline will be laid, 12.3 km of transmission mains rehabilitated, the capacity of underground reservoirs enhanced from 4.3 million litres to 18.3 million litres, and 0.16 million automated meter reading (AMR) water meters installed. AMR meters will improve the billing mechanism as the data from meters will automatically be transferred to a central database, thereby doing away with the system of manual reading, which often leads to errors. SPML has also developed a new software application, SPMLAQUA, which will be used for geographic information system (GIS) mapping, revenue management, O&M of the system, addressing complaints and queries of customers, and asset management. It has also developed an Android-based application, which will facilitate registration of complaints, tracking their status, placing request for water tankers and getting updates on progress of the project. Additionally, the application will also facilitate consumers in submitting online request for a new water connection. The application will become operational by early November 2014.
At present, 24×7 supply of water has commenced in West End, and all the households there have metered water connections. The NRW component has also reduced in the area. MVV Water Utility has also taken over operations in Vasant Vihar, Vasant Enclave, Shanti Niketan and Anand Niketan, and construction is under way in these areas. Construction at Mehrauli is nearing completion and operations are expected to commence by end-2014.
The project is expected to yield several benefits, including reduction in the NRW component, higher consumer coverage and improved service delivery. Some of the expected benefits from the project are highlighted below:
- Upon successful implementation of the project, all households will have access to good quality water and not be forced to buy expensive low quality water from private tanker suppliers.
- As per the contract, MVV Water Utility is required to maintain a certain level of pressure in the supply system. This is expected to reduce the contamination of water as the pipes will continuously be under positive pressure, which would restrict the entry of contaminants. A continuously monitored steady pressure will increase the life of pipes and this will reduce incidences of waterborne diseases.
- The private operator will also undertake the metering of connections and replace faulty meters. This will help in improving revenue collection, as tariffs will be paid based on actual consumption.
- Moreover, MVV Water Utility will also undertake water audits, which will involve maintaining a record of the total amount of water supplied, and water delivered to metered consumers, water delivered to unmetered consumers and water losses in the system, and suggesting measures to address the losses. The audit will help determine the key reasons for water losses like leakage, theft and illegal withdrawals. In addition to identifying problems in the water supply system, the audit will also assist in gauging the present performance level and the need to upgrade the infrastructure for catering to future demand.
- As per the contract, the private operator will set up customer service centres or water kiosks in the service areas to improve the customer interface and grievance redressal mechanism. The operator will also conduct mass awareness campaigns and address consumer complaints in a time-bound manner. In this regard, the operator has developed an Android application to assist customers in applying for meters, tracking their application status and registering complaints.
A regular water supply is one of the very basic urban amenities that should be provided by a civic agency to all households. However, India is currently lagging behind on this front. Therefore, DJB has taken a step in the right direction by launching a 24×7 water supply pilot in Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar. In order to efficiently implement the project, MVV Water Utility has taken several IT initiatives like installing water meters, launching mobile applications to ease the interaction between customers and service providers and developing software to assist in GIS mapping and revenue management. Upon its successful completion, the project may act as an example to other civic agencies that are considering the involving of private players in the system.