Water will be a key concern for Mumbai

Mumbai : One of the key focus areas for Mumbai in the coming years will be water.  This was stated by Ajoy Mehta, Municipal Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) at a conference on Water Management for Smart Cities, organized by Security Watch India.

He pointed out how the first key area where work needed to be done is in the formation of proper policies for pricing of water. These, he said, must take into account the need to make people aware that water has a cost attached to it, without losing the sense of equity – where the man who wastes water must pay a bit more than a man who needs it for his basic needs.

But for this to happen, many other measures will have to be taken.  First, comes metering. Unlike as in the power consumption sector, where metering is sophisticated enough to take into account volume, time of day, and the quality of power throughput, metering of water is quite primitive in India. In Mumbai, for instance, barely 25% of the water gets measured and metered. Mumbai’s officials don’t even know where much of the water goes.  “Metering is a mess, and this must be addressed,” stated Mehta.  He stated that most people take water for granted, with little concern for what harm they do to the environment and to the very supply of this precious resource.

There is a need to offer water supply on a 24 x 7 basis. That will save the city from the chore of storing water, and then throwing it away a few days later under the belief that it had become ‘stale’. But before this is done, policies will have to be formulated on whether water should be charged on the basis of time-of-day (ToD), as with electricity, or should be allowed to vary with seasons – a higher pricing when water supply is scarce and a lower pricing when water availability isn’t a problem, as during the rains.

The third area of concern is to have more work done on educating people on how to save on water – whether for shaving, or even gardening.  This is already being done in the power sector – replacement of conventional lamps with LED lights, or a rating system for electrical gadgets on the amount of power they use. “Why can’t we begin rating appliances like washing machines, based on the amount of water they use?” he asked.

Finally, there is an urgent need to look at waste water – much of which goes into the seas as raw untreated sewerage into the seas.  That, in turn, pollutes our seas and ocean life, which comes back to the city for consumption. Our first major effort in this direction should go live within a short time with the commissioning of the Colaba sewage treatment plant which will process around 30 million litres daily (MLD). Four other such plants are being planned for Mumbai – at Worli, Versova, Bandra and Malad. This is the water that will go to meet requirements for non-drinking purposes – including washing and gardening.

You cannot have a smart city, without first taking a serious look at water, and not just at power, roads and transport.  Water is far more critically important to life than all the others, he added.

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