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BMC mulls tenfold hike in fine for stealing water

While the water supply to the city falls short by 700 million liters daily (mld), more than this volume is stolen through unauthorised connections and leakages. To plug this drain, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has decided to seek legal opinion to be able to slap a fine 10 times the current penalty on those found with illegal water connections.

Currently, the fine varies from Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000, depending on the size of the water main the illegal connections draw from. Rajiv Jalota, additional municipal commissioner in charge of the water department, said, “Before imposing a hefty fine, we need to know the consequences. We will take a legal opinion on this matter.”

The municipal commissioner said earlier that the BMC aims to cut water losses from 30 per cent to 25 per cent in a year. For the purpose, a Rs 57-crore provision has been made in this year’s civic budget. The civic body has decided to form leak detection squads for every one of the 24 administrative wards in the city, which will be led by the ward assistant engineer. The BMC supplies 3, 500 million litres of water daily (mld) to 1.25 crore Mumbaikars, while the city’s demand is 4,200 mld. Over 900 mld is estimated to be lost daily, due to leakage and pilferage, according to the civic body’s records.

While there is no provision in the BMC Act to provide water connections to illegal structures in the city, slum dwellers filch water and the BMC treats this as an unaccounted loss. Rahul Shewale, chairman of the civic standing committee, had demanded in his budget speech that the BMC recover 10 times the extant fine from water thieves. “There is a need to take stringent action to curb water theft. It would generate revenue as well as reduce cases of theft,” said Shewale.

Said another official from the water department, on condition of anonymity, “We found illegal water connections mostly in slum areas. The water mafia helps get these connections. Even after repeated action, this hasn’t stopped. So levying 10 times the fine is a good suggestion.”

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