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Iniquitous levy by BWSSB on apartment complexes

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Reproduced below is the summary of the presentation made by Sri P V Maiya, on the subject, at the RERA- Bengaluru meeting held on the 10th April, '16:

BWSSB: Water Tariff, Sanitary charges, Bore well charge: Some serious issues.

  1. The last water tariff revision was made  in December 2014.Based on a study of the monthly water bill of our apartment building, I wrote a long letter to BWSSB chairman on 12-12-2014 about the irrationality and non-transparent method adopted for revision. No reply came.
  2.  Be that as it may, first let us understand a few facts for familiarisation.
    1. The monthly water bill has four items of price. They are i] Water charges, ii] Sanitary charges[the underground sanitary lines of the BWSSB] iii] Sanitary charges for bore well, and iv] Meter charges.Of these, [ii] & [iii] are fixed %of the consumption of water. It was 15 to20% pre-revision and 25% post revision.
    2. These are charges for domestic consumers, who are further divided into two categories: A]Individual houses and B] Apartment buildings. Till December 2014 when the charges were revised, for [A] category consumers, the water charges were determined on the basis of consumption levels on a 5- slab rate scale ranging from Rs.6 to Rs.36 at the maximum. This was revised and fitted into 4-slab rate scale ranging from Rs.7 to Rs.45 at the maximum. Likewise other three charges were also revised.
    3. For the[B] category consumers, namely, Apartments buildings, earlier and post- revision, water charges were determined, as stated on the reverse of the bill, “Consumption is charged on average domestic consumption for each tenement”. By itself this may not be clear and needs an explanation. The total of five slab rates was Rs.96/ divided then by 5 =Rs.19/. The revised four slab rates aggregate to Rs.89/ divided by 4= Rs.22/. Accordingly, the water charges for apartment buildings was Rs.19/ per kilo liter earlier and since December 2014 it is Rs.22/ per kilo liter.  This rate is coincidentally almosthalf of the highest rate of Rs.45 which is applicable to water consumption of above 50000 liters a month.
    4. Again for apartment buildings, the two sanitary charges were revised to 25% each but subject of minimum of Rs.100 per apartment. 
    5. The meter charges were revised from Rs.70 a month to Rs.1000/ per month. There is no explanation for this steep hike.
  3. There is a conceptually a fundamental flaw in the WBSSB treating Apartment buildings as aseparate category from the individual houses. BWSSB considers that as the water supply to  an apartment building is with a single large connection, it is a BULK supply and therefore, water charges should be on the basis of an average rate of the four slab rates of Rs.22/as explained above. Perhaps WBSSB may even rationalise this as midpoint of the highest slab rate of Rs.45/ per KL. andargue that it is a fair rate.It may appear on the surface that BWSSB is considerate in fixing the rate for apartment buildings at Rs.22/ and not any higher. Such a feeling is misconstruing the reality.Besides, if indeed BWSSB were to explicitly take such a  stand, it is indeed iniquitous for the obvious reason thatseparate water connection to individual apartments [which every owner is entitled to] is technically not feasible in vertical buildings.
  4.  Additionallythe following reasons justify treatment of apartment as equal to individual houses.
    1. Each apt is registered separately by the individual owners,
    2. BESCOM recognizes individual apartment as separate entity.
    3. BBMP levies property tax on that basis,
    4. BWSSB itself charges two sanitary charges -one for connecting to general sanitary lines and another for bore well -both on per apartment basis,
    5. Statement of objects and reasons of Apt Owners’ Act 1972 states “Consequent upon the shortage of lands in urban areas, the majority of the citizens of urban area of the State cannot think in terms of owning houses on individual basis.-- - - - It is therefore considered expedient that each apartment should for all purposes constitute a heritable and transferable immovable property andthat suitable legislation should provide for all matters connected therewith”. BWSSB should take note thatwater supply to apartment on par with houses is implicit in this statement, and consistent with the State’s objective.
    6. Lastly, the one single levy of Rs.22/ per Kilo Liter now is based on as per the water bill which reads as “Apartment total consumption is charged onaverage domestic consumption basis for each tenement”. This is self- contradictory. If average consumption per tenement is the basis, the slab rate applicable only should follow the same and not any other. Let me explain this. If an individual house consumes 10Kl of water, it is charged Rs.110/ @of Rs11 per Kl. For the same quantum of water, an apartment has to pay Rs.220/ @of RS.22 per Kl.Is this not unfair?
  5. Living in apartments has become unavoidable and only because ordinary middle class persons cannot afford a house, they need not be penalized by WBSSB, a State Statutory Board. Apartments are now springing up in tier II& III cities too. Growing population cannot but be accommodated by vertical buildings.
  6. There are two sanitary charges –one for underground sanitary line which connects to the BWSSB line and, another for bore well. The rationale/ or the justification for the bore well charges at Rs.100/per apartment is not clearly spelt out; it is said that eventually water used from bore well too goes into sanitary lines of BWSSB –“supplying water is only one part of BWSSB’s responsibilities. Taking back waste water is another important function” as stated by one of their senior officials in an interview. Let us concede this for argument’s sake. The water bill states sanitary charge is 25% of water bill but the last revision notification had added that the minimum is Rs.100/ per apartment or 25% of water chargeswhichever is higher. The absurdity of this can be gauged from an apartment building’s actual bill is: water charges for 501 kl @Rs/22= Rs.11022/ as against sanitary chares of Rs.5500+ Rs.5500= Rs11000/ which together is 100% of water charges! NOT 25% really.This also means that water consumed is equal to waste water in apartment buildings but not so in individual houses.There is no scientific basis for concluding waste water is equal to the quantum of water supply. Thus the minimum charge is a devious method of raising resources for and adopted by WBSSB.Such absurdityis seen in the water bills of major apartment buildings in Bangalore.
  7. Next, water meter charge per month which was Rs.70/ per month was hiked to Rs.1000/ a month. My enquiries reveal water meter may cost about Rs.20000/ and so BWSSB recovers the investment in water meters in 20 months while the meter life may be 5 years.
  8. Where do we go from the above analysis? Let us offer some solutions.
    1.  First andforemost, we must recognise and accept that water is increasinglygetting scarce and hence too precious and every citizen must use it frugally. Increase in tariff is inevitable but it should be rationally done. BWSSB has wealth of data which should be used for formulating a rational basis for determining tariff.
    2. Apartments must be treated as individual houses and pro-rata consumption should be charged only at the slab rate as applicable to individual houses: total consumption divided by the number of apartments yields the average per apartment. BWSSB will surely protest as it will resultin loss of revenue. Water supply should therefore be priced properly by hiking the slab rates progressively such that the rate becomes a disincentive for higher consumption. This method is adopted by BESCOM which is a rational and transparent method.
    3. Simultaneously, sanitary charges be kept at a maximum of 25% for each of the two facilities by dispensing with the minimum irrespective of the consumption of water.
  9. If and if only BWSSB accepts this transparent system of tariff revision mentioned above, it would not have to resort to subterfuge in its dealings with citizens living in apartment buildings as the current system does.

Muralidhar Rao

PS: Attached also is the letter addressed by Mr Maiya to the Chairman, BWSSB, in the same connection, on 12-12-2014, for reference.

letter to chairman, BWSSB 12-12-2014-2.doc42.5 KB comment guidelines

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