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Community managed system for operation, billing and collection of water charges
The Millennium Development Goal 7 target 10 targets access to safe drinking water supply and basic sanitation to the under privileged. These two issues pose new challenges to all civic bodies in providing these very basic services for ensuring a healthy living environment. This could build on capacities of communities to make significant progress with regard to poverty reduction and improvement in the quality of life. The current level of investment in the water sector is quite inadequate. While additional financial resources will help to meet these challenges, infrastructure investment alone does not ensure sustainability. The need for efficient use of existing water resources, and community participation are imperative to make increased coverage to all a reality. There are prospects for a rapid increase in the external investment flow to improve service delivery in this sector. It is expected that efforts are made to intensify domestic mobilization of funds. Rationalisation of inter tariff is one of such measures to improve fund mobilization. Inadequacies in management include high proportions of non-revenue water, poor billing arrangements, limited metering, non-viable pricing, lack of proper municipal dues collection, and poor revenue recovery rates leading to commercially non-viable urban local bodies, and inadequate service coverage especially in the slum and squatter settlement to improve service delivery. The prevailing water tariffs are generally below the actual cost of water supply. While over the years, both the annual receipts from water charges and annual Operation and Maintenance (O&M) expenses have been rising, the trend in the former has been subdued compared to the latter resulting in a growing gap between the two and thereby further resulting in mounting losses over the years. This paper puts forward possible measures for strengthening the urban water sector along with the enhancement of the capacity of the community, emphasizing the importance of water charges billing and collection involving user groups or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).