In the first price hike since 2011, Chandigarh residents will have to pay 1.5 to 2.5 times more for water from April 1.
The rates will vary from ₹3 per kilolitre (kl) to ₹20 per kl depending on the consumption. Currently, these range between ₹2 per kl and ₹8 per kl.
The UT administration on Wednesday notified the revised water tariff, while reducing the rates under the first two domestic consumption slabs – 0-15 kl and 16-30 kl – as notified in September 2020 and later revoked. The rates in the remaining two slabs – 31-60 kl and over 60 kl – will be the same as notified in 2020. There is no change in tariff for commercial, industrial and institutional consumers.
The residents falling in the 0-15 kl slab will have to pay ₹3 per kl instead of the current ₹2 per kl.
For people consuming 16-30 kl, the rates have been increased from ₹4 to ₹6 per kl. For the 31 kl to 60 kl category, the tariff will be ₹10 per kl instead of ₹6 per kl.
The biggest hike is for the consumers with top-most consumption – above 60 kl, which will now cost ₹20 per kl instead of ₹8 per kl.
Notably, the revised rates are higher than those recommended by the MC House resolution in March last year. It had suggested ₹9 per kl and ₹16 per kl for the higher consumption slabs. The sewerage cess will remain unchanged – 30% of the water bill.
Through its notification in September 2020, the administration had hiked the tariff by 1.5 to 3 times. But, following political pressure, it had stayed the move on May 24 last year till March 31, 2022.
After the 2021 MC elections wherein the water tariff hike was a prominent issue, the administration held several rounds of meetings with political parties, but the deadlock remained. Both AAP and Congress had voiced strong opposition to any hike in rates.
Residents, parties oppose move
The administration’s move elicited immediate condemnation and criticism from different sections of society.
Pankaj Gupta, chief spokesman, FOSWAC (Federation of Sector Welfare Associations Chandigarh), said, “It is most disappointing that the government is putting one financial burden after another on residents. Some services, like water supply, should not exploited for profit. It is a basic need and should be within everybody’s reach.”
Vinod Vashisht, convener, CFORWO (City Forum of Residents Welfare Organisations) said, “The hike will put tremendous financial burden on residents. It is totally unfair. MC has failed to secure the residents’ interests and allowed the bureaucracy to prevail. The sewerage cess has also not been reduced, as recommended via an MC resolution in February this year.”
Demanding resignation of the mayor, Chandigarh AAP president Prem Garg said, “We strongly oppose the hike and will hold protests. The mayor had assured the MC House that no hike in rates will be allowed. The administration should concentrate on the water going waste due to misuse and unauthorised connections.”
Chandigarh Congress president Subhash Chawla said, “We will start an agitation against the decision. The BJP has betrayed the people of Chandigarh. In the last meeting with UT officials, it was evident that the BJP will toe the administration’s line instead of working for people’s interest.”
“The administration has accepted our request and reduced the rates from those notified in September 2020. Had the opposition supported us in the meetings with the administration, we could have ensured more reductions. But they opted to play politics,” said mayor Sarabjit Kaur Dhillon.
Increase justified: Admn
Justifying the hike, an administration spokesperson said, “The water tariff rates were not revised for nearly 11 years since May 24, 2011. The cost of water supply and additional infrastructure has increased manifold since then, leading to continuous losses. Even after the price hike, the Chandigarh MC will still suffer losses worth more than ₹80 crore in water supply and sewerage sectors.”
The administration also claimed that rates in the first two slabs were comparable or even lower than those in Punjab and Haryana. “The water tariff rates in the higher categories in Chandigarh are also much lower than Delhi. The ₹10 per kl and ₹20 per kl charged for higher consumption are far lower than ₹43.93 per kl charged in Delhi. The sewerage cess in Delhi is also higher at 60%,” the spokesperson said.
The spike in rates was biggest in the highest-consumption slab to prevent misuse of potable water, the official added.
“Of the total 1.52 lakh consumers, over 82,000 fall in the 16-30 kl consumption slab, where the rate is ₹6 per kl. In the 31-60 kl slab, costing ₹10 per kl, there are over 19,000 consumers and over 16,000 in the above 60 kl consumption, where the charge is ₹20 per kl. So the burden of hike falls primarily on consumers using water excessively,” said a MC official.