The UDF Government’s controversial move to establish a CIAL-model company for water supply took a heavy beating on Wednesday with seven of its MLAs writing to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy flaying the proposal and the Opposition creating a ruckus in the Assembly.
In their letter, the UDF’s “green” MLAs V D Satheesan, T N Prathapan, Hibi Eden, M V Sreyams Kumar, C P Mohammed, V T Balram and Palode Ravi urged Chandy to drop the proposal for public-private partnership which they alleged would lead to the commercialisation of drinking water supply. Water from local sources belongs to the respective communities and therefore collecting and selling it cannot be justified, they said.
As per the proposal, the company will not use water sources used by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) but will collect water from ponds, quarries and brackish water sources. According to the MLAs, the KWA supplies water to only 30 per cent of the population while the rest depends on local water sources. Surrendering these sources to a company cannot be condoned, they said.
During the question hour in the Assembly, the Opposition categorically demanded the withdrawal of the project alleging that it would lead to privatisation of water supply. Pandemonium prevailed in the House for several minutes with Opposition members shouting slogans such as “drinking water is a birth right” and “the government is attempting to privatise water sources”. Deputy Opposition Leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, brandishing a government order issued by the Water Resources Department on the formation of the company, objected to the plans to collect water from ponds and quarries. Though the Oppoisition members rose from their seats and moved in the direction of the Speaker’s seat, they stopped short of the Well.
Water Resources Minister P J Joseph said the company proposed would not encroach on the KWA’s water sources, but would collect water from ponds, quarries and sources of brackish water.
At a time when private companies are selling bottled water at a high price, the company will sell it at an affordable price, he said.
Joseph, however, did not have a clear answer to Kodiyeri’s question regarding the fate of an earlier KWA proposal to establish a bottled water plant at Aruvikkara in Thiruvananthapuram district.