THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For years, the public water taps in the state have been the only source of drinking water for lakhs of people, particularly the poor and homeless. On a lighter note, it’s where women, waiting for their turns to fill pots, gleefully shared gossips, but fiercely argued when one of them jumped queue. And where young men gathered under the cover of darkness and had a swig of rum.
The public taps, considered a highlight of Kerala model of development, will soon become a thing of the past as the government plans to remove them altogether in an attempt to promote private connection. The move follows the state government’s plan to join the Jal Jeevan Mission, announced recently by the Prime Minister, to give functional tap water to every household in the country by 2024. The state aims to give 55 lakh connections in the next five years.
But for the poor, the transition is a big blow. Several of them who live in coastal areas, tribal villages and plantations, have been relying on the public water taps as the new connection comes at a price.
To be implemented jointly by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) and Kerala Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (KRWSA), the project is estimated to cost `35,000 crore, which will be shared equally by the central and state governments.
At present the local bodies pay around `118 crore annually to the KWA for nearly two lakh public taps in the state. Of this, `78.75 crore comes from the rural area. With the JJM, the burden will be on people.
“The new scheme is another step toward privatising water supply. The homeless will be the worst-affected with the disappearance of public taps,” a source said.
With regard to the private pipeline connection, a consumer has to bear the expense, including the amount to be paid to the local bodies to dig the hole on the road where Kerala Water Authority lines lie.
The JJM rules insist the state government to pay for water in excess of 55 litres per capita per day (LPCD). The KWA connections are currently based on 1,000 LPCD. It incurs the authority a loss of `7 per every 1,000 litre supplied.
The KRWSA had started many drinking water supply projects, but most of them proved unsustainable.
“Of the 1,050 multi-panchayat water schemes, the KRWSA could turn around only 200. There’re several examples of unsustainable projects, like at Parassala in Thiruvananthapuram and Vellathuval in Idukki,” the source added.