It is a novel project for more than one reason. The Orange City Water (OCW) Project in Nagpur is the first one in India that looks to provide 24×7 water supply to all its residents, regardless of their socio-economic status. It is also the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) project of its kind in the country.
For Nagpur that has 40 per cent of its population living in slums, this is no doubt of great import. The international tender the Nagpur Municipal Corporation floated for the purpose five years ago saw Vishvaraj Infrastructure Limited (VIL) and French company Veolia emerging winners, with the project getting off the ground in March 2012. On the capex side, the government is funding 70% of the costs (under the erstwhile Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, now rechristened AMRUT). The private operators have shouldered the rest of the costs and would seek to recover it over 25 years.
Of the existing 640 km of water pipeline network, over 500 km has been replaced so far. “We are waiting for the government’s grant of Rs 1,200 crore which has been a little delayed. The work can be sped up once we receive the funds. So far, the project is progressing well,” says Arun Lakhani, chairman and managing Director of VIL. Adds Shashikant Hastak, superintending engineer (Public Works), Nagpur Municipal Corporation, “We have rehabilitated around 40% per cent of the system. We should be able to complete the entire rehabilitation work in another one and a half year’s time. This will ensure water supply at committed standards for the next 25 years.”
That the PPP model is working in what, for it, is virgin territory is itself remarkable. What helped the project was “willingness from both the political and the administrative sides,” says Hastak. Proferring advice on such urban projects, he adds, “We feel that the urban local body (ULB) should adopt the role of a regulator and not the service provider, since it is hamstrung by a lot of limitations. There is no professional manpower available. People keep getting transferred and there are no real incentives. It is better that essential services are managed by experts and professionals.”
Incidentally, Nagpur has had six municipal commissioners since the start of the OCW project. “And each of them was keen to push the project,” says Patrick Rousseau, CEO & MD, Veolia India. Concurring with Hastak, he says, “What is first needed is political will, support, and a clear vision of what municipal corporations want to achieve. Number two, thorough due diligence of existing assets needs to be performed to define a capex programme. Three, professional management of the network calls for the private sector being roped in.” His company has introduced modern techniques for repair work that use diverse waterproofing materials and also employed the technology used in Europe for house service connections, he points out.
Needless to say, the OCW project has seen non-revenue water supply come down from 51 per cent to 32 per cent in Nagpur. In what is good news for public health, the city has also seen a drastic fall in the number of complaints against polluted water supply in the last five years.
That the project might be setting a template is clear from the interest it has evoked from other cities and towns in India. Commissioners from towns in Rajasthan and Telangana have visited Nagpur of late to have a closer look at the project. A village in Jaipur is in the process of implementing a 24×7 water supply project under the Swiss Challenge model and there are proposals for PPP water supply projects in Ahmedabad and Indore as well. “A large market is opening up. A lot of these projects will slowly achieve the desired goal of 24×7 water supply,” says Lakhani of VIL, which is also beginning work on water projects under the management contract model in Pimpri-Chinchwad in Maharashtra. “The situation is much better today than it was a few years ago, with a clear emphasis on water and sanitation under
AMRUT and Smart City programmes,” he sums up.