The Water and Sewerage Authority (WSA), formed four years ago, will take charge of the city’s water supply and drainage service soon as a sister concern of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). The agency will raise bills, collect charges and run the waterworks.
“Water tax is inevitable for domestic users. Otherwise, the entire water supply set-up of the city will come crashing,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Wednesday. Pressured by international funding agencies, the CMC merged its water supply and drainage & sewerage departments to form an independent body, the WSA, in 1999.
The mayor will be the ex-officio chairman and the mayor-in-council members of water supply and drainage & sewerage will be the two vice-chairpersons of the new CMC subsidiary.
Civic officials said the move to set up the WSA was initiated in 1998, when visiting teams from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank commented on the “poor” accounting system of the CMC.
They were learnt to have insisted on separate budgets for the water and sewerage departments, for which the civic body had sought loans from them. The funding agencies stressed that they would offer project-specific loans and without a separate budget, the loan-repaying capacity of an institution could not be gauged.
Subsequently, the former Left Front board in the CMC decided to form the WSA, on the lines of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), by merging its water supply and sewerage departments.
“The BMC, which has been receiving financial help from the ADB since the 1970s, maintains a separate budget for its water and sewerage departments. We have obtained a copy of the BMC budget to find out how it has been drawn up,” said a senior engineer of the water supply department.
The mayor said that the international agencies want to finance only those projects which are self-sufficient and capable of generating surplus resources to repay the loan.
According to Mukherjee, a radically opposite situation prevails in the CMC. In Calcutta, the civic body spends Rs 83 crore annually on water supply, but its revenue earning from the same head is only Rs 10 crore.