Towards autonomy

Following promulgation of three ordinances aimed at streamlining the management of the Nepal Water Supply Corporation and the formation of a tariff fixation commission last April, the national water utility is gearing up to set up two more semi-autonomous bodies to improve supply of drinking water in the Valley. The Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Management Board and Water Utility Operator, in addition to the existing Tariff Fixation Commission, will work for effective management, planning and regulation of the water distribution system. It marks the arrival of private players in the water supply sector. The government has also introduced the concept of public-private partnership, incorporating local bodies in the mosaic. The Utility is expected to work as a private entity with the government, municipalities, chamber of commerce and staffers’ trust holding the shares. This is a significant departure for a Corporation that has drawn a lot of flak for its heavily centralised and bureaucratic management system that has been blamed for many of its shortcomings.

The new changes have been incorporated after the donors urged institutional reforms in the Corporation. With the utility heeding to their demand, it could emerge as a reliable body and improve its tarnished image. At this stage, there is nothing to suggest why the new proposal should not be a success. Though it is yet to acquire a new structure, some degree of autonomy and the local bodies’ participation must prove effective in energising the state water utility. Even more critical is the government’s policy to fix water tariff according to the cost-recovery principle. Once external interference and bureaucratic procedures are scaled down, both the clients and stakeholders should be able to gain from this exercise. However, the preparation of the existing water supply mechanism for integration with the Melamchi Drinking Water Supply Project will be complete only when the ageing pipes are replaced and the pilferage totally controlled. Grandiloquent ideas alone won’t solve the problem of perpetual water scarcity in the Valley. In fact, the problems with the water supply are so many and so common, the consumers have grown wary of the Corporation. They think only a pragmatic and efficient Corporation can handle the work, ensuring reliability.