In a relief to citizens who have already been burdened with soaring fuel prices and annual electricity tariff hikes amidst job losses and salary cuts due to the pandemic, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has ruled out any increase in water tariffs for now. BWSSB chairman N. Jayaram told The Hindu, “Tthere are no such plans as of now.”
Only recently, the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC), in its order revising electricity tariffs across the State, had also allowed a hike in tariff for water supply. “The Commission has increased the tariff for LT water supply installations by 10 paise per unit only from the existing rate of ₹4.85 per unit to ₹4.95 per unit. The rate for HT water supply installations is also increased by 10 paise per unit from ₹5.45 per unit to ₹5.55 per unit,” it said in its order.
Overall, the KERC had approved an average increase in tariff by 30 paise per unit for all electricity supply companies for the ongoing financial year.
The last time the BWSSB had revised tariff was in 2014, which was by 20%. Officials had explained how the electricity bill, including for pumping water, takes up a third of the revenue.
Last year, after the KERC had revised electricity tariffs, the BWSSB had cited financial stress and deemed a revision inevitable. The average domestic charge is ₹7 per kilolitre up to 8,000 litres and ₹11 from 8,001 to 25,000 litres.
Sources said the BWSSB raises around ₹120 crore from consumers every month and around ₹30 crore goes for operational costs and ₹12 crore for payment of salaries. Much of the remaining amount goes towards electricity. The BWSSB bears the operational costs, while project costs are borne by the government.
An official, on condition of anonymity, said while the other utility – Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) – has been allowed year-on-year hikes, the BWSSB has been awaiting revision in tariffs since 2014. “We have been bringing this to the notice of the government every year, including this year. But due to the pandemic, there has not been a push for revision as of now,” said the official.
The pandemic and electricity tariff hike has taken its toll on the water board, too. “Of the average revenue of ₹110 crore, more than ₹80 crore goes towards electricity. In addition, due to COVID-19, there has been a variation in revenue. We have also lost six staff members to COVID-19,” said a senior BWSSB official.