Local bodies in debt to Water Board

By Mirudhula Thambiah

Local authorities in the Western Province are in arrears of over Rs. 350 million to the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB), its Chairman Karunasena Hettiarachchi told the Sunday Times.
He said people living in shanties and slums depend on roadside taps, which the local authorities are expected to pay for.

“The responsibility of the local authorities is to provide services to the people” Mr. Hettiarachchi said.
During the past years the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) authorities said there weren’t sufficient funds to make the payment.

Mr. Hettiarachchi added that to overcome these issues regarding street taps, a programme called Randiya has been launched to provide water connections to individual houses. He said the roadside pipes will be removed, because people don’t pay for their usage; they waste water, with taps being left open round the clock and the water allowed to flow into the drain. People also use water from these roadside taps for commercial purposes and to wash vehicles.

“Under the Randiya programme 1,500 low-income settlements within Colombo city will be provided with ‘metered’ water connections, of which 500 settlements are already ‘connected’. Since some settlements have common toilets and bathrooms, disconnecting the water lines in these places is not possible due to the occupants’ basic needs. Therefore we decided to dismantle the roadside taps” he said.

There are water meters being connected to public toilets and bathrooms. People who use this water will be asked to share the payment to the Water Board.

“All water connections will be metered,” Mr. Hettiarachchi said.“Of significance in the Randiya programme is to provide water connections to the poor @ Rs 4,000 per connection, to be paid in 37 installments, with a down payment of Rs. 700. The installments will be included in the monthly water bill,” he said.

The next biggest loss for the NWSDB is the increase in the Non Revenue Water (NRW), which has risen to 50% in Colombo, while the national average is 30%.

Mr. Hettiarachchi explained that if the NRW was high, the cost of water would be high, since the NRW doesn’t generate any income and is one of the biggest problems confronting the Board.

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