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Delhi Government may ground Jal Board project

Sujay Mehdudia

DJB's loan application would not be taken when the World Bank meets to discuss such projects this month


  • Strong public and political sentiment against water privatisation in general and the 24X7 project in particular has forced a re-thinking on part of Delhi Govt.
  • What has been most intriguing about the whole project is that the DJB never parted with the relevant information after the NGO Parivartan went public with the sensitive documents on the issue

    NEW DELHI: It is now clear that the World Bank will not take up the Delhi Jal Board's application for sanction of financial assistance at its meeting later this month. Strong public and political sentiment against water privatisation in general and the 24X7 project in particular has forced a serious re-thinking in the Delhi Government about the implications of such a move that has already caught the attention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

    On the other hand, the matter has already been referred to the Planning Commission, the Administrative Staff College, Hyderabad, and the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) for their consideration and feedback about the feasibility of this World Bank scheme popularly known as the Delhi Water Supply and Sewerage Project. According to sources in the Government, these agencies are holding public consultations and carrying out a detailed exercise on this project and this is likely to take another four months. Then it would study the feedback and prepare a detailed report for submission to the Delhi Government some time in mid-2006.

    "The Delhi Government would be facing civic polls in early 2007 and implementation of any such project would be disastrous from the political point of view and damage the prospects of the Congress Government. This project could well stand grounded for the present in view of the developments,'' a senior official remarked.

    Sources said that in view of the massive resentment against the project and the political storm it has raised in the Congress party and outside, the Government does not want to turn on the heat. It is learnt that the loan application of the Delhi Government would not be taken up for consideration when the World Bank meets to discuss such projects later this month. On the other hand, the project has already received the attention of the Prime Minister and the Congress president who have assured eminent citizens and the Left parties that nothing that is against the interests of the poor and the common man would be done. Ms. Gandhi even assured these concerned citizens that pending reports from the various agencies employed by the Delhi Government to study this project, the loan application and the 24X7 project had been put on the hold.

    Sources said what has been most intriguing about the whole project is that the Delhi Jal Board despite repeated promises of being transparent and open about the whole exercise never parted with the relevant information after the non-government organisation Parivartan went public with the sensitive documents on the issue. The Jal Board officials shied away from public interaction and even after making promises did not turn up for discussions at various public forums giving an impression that there was more to hide than to reveal. It is also understood that Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who is also the chairperson of the Jal Board, has not been kept abreast of the developments.

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