Open letters to the Mayor & Chief Minister

Dear Mayor,

First my compliments for securing a big mandate of confidence at the last corporator elections. People of Bangalore showed confidence in your party and its ability to govern Bangalore. You are aware that you were the first mayor of Bangalore after many years of not having a mayor. Bangalore was one of the very few ‘mayor-less’ cities for 6 to 7 years, as you are aware.

So you have a job to bring order to a city that is global. People, the world over hear about Bangalore as a global city. It is a rare privilege for you to be Mayor.

If I were you, I will first need the courage to list out all the bad news on energy deficits, on the massive water deficits, and on the really alarming challenge of solid waste management and garbage in the city. How do you really govern? How do you remind your party members and corporators of the mandate the people of Bangalore gave you?

Whether it is Singapore or Paris, they are not ‘free’ cities. City people are governed with strictures and disciplines that keep the city going. When the BBMP commissioner brought the law on household waste with a penalty of Rs 100 for default, you should have backed it fully. You should have made people understand, that they are also responsible for helping you as Mayor to get order on waste.

You must help Bescom get at least an average of Rs 12 to Rs 14 per unit of power we consume. The cost of power is Rs 20 for the government. People of Bangalore pay only Rs 5 per unit as average! Can you change this? The extra revenue that Bescom will get will help it to bring greater efficiency in energy demand and in energy supply. You will be proud to see an energy-positive city if you acted decisively as Mayor by taking the challenge to the other players who can make Bangalore liveable.

Our cost of energy is at about Rs 20 and we charge less than Rs 4 for domestic tariff. Even for industry and business and for hotels we don’t charge more than Rs. 10. We can’t continue to bleed government coffers with such losses, for every unit of water or electricity that the government sells to us.

Tariffs for energy and water are so low in our cities that it just does not make sense for having people save water, or to ensure that BWSSB gets enough money to bring improvements. You must have the courage as Mayor to tell the State government to be not afraid of telling people of the serious resource gaps the government is facing, and how if people paid more, they can get energy and water in the city. After all, about 1 million middle-class households pay about Rs 110 per kiloliter of tanker water. They pay BWSSB only Rs 6 per kiloliter. Can you persuade the people to pay BWSSB at least Rs 80 per kiloliter.

Between Power and water bills, with the new tariffs, people will pay an additional 2000 per household, which is affordable even with average income of Rs 25000 per household in Bangalore.

The Water Supply Board in Bangalore spends Rs 45 for 1000 liters [kiloliter] and they are not able to raise their tariff from Rs 6 per kiloliter. BWSSB loses Rs 39 for every kiloliter that people consume. Can you change this as Mayor?

On Solid Waste Management, please call a meeting of all the waste transporting contractors. Please tell them that they should support the BBMP Commissioner’s moves to localize waste collection, segregation and treatment. Tell them that their total contract for a year is only Rs 500 crore. Can you put Bangalore’s waste crisis and the city’s reputation at stake, for the sake of one strong lobby that is stopping the city from implementing good waste management programmes?

With such massive losses, you have no money therefore to be reinvesting on watersheds, or on natural ecosystems for protection of such forests, and so on. You could not pay the contractors two months the small sum of Rs 1200 crore of contractor dues because you are not controlling the value of contracts and the purpose of such contracts. How can you bring efficiency on such costs with strategic moves?

Dear Chief Minister,

It is a bitter truth today that if you need water in house taps in Bangalore, you need rich rainfall in Wynaud; you need TN farmers and Karnataka farmers to work on shifting to water-efficient crops beyond paddy like sorghum, pulses and other millets, you need budgets to improve the ecosystem in Coorg’s forests to ensure higher water rainfall.

This is not about State borders. This is about Tamil Nadu and Karnataka moving alarmingly toward a massive unprecedented water crisis by 2020.

As Chief Minister, you must build the capacity in your cabinet and in your government to think as far ahead as the next 30 years on the issue of Water for cities, and water for cultivation. As CM, you cannot be seen to be acting because the Supreme Court says so. You have to come up with solutions that are proactive and long-term. You must invite experts who know how to help you understand the future, the costs, the solutions. You have to act in a way that all the factors are taken into account. You must get all stakeholders on irrigation, city water supply, city and rural energy supply, to meet together. You will be making some historic decisions that your Party and Karnataka’s people will be grateful to you for.

You must discourage your party members to make political mileage out of the Cauvery issue. You must show courage and determination to take to people the bad news and ask them to stand by you through the next elections, so that you can build a new state with vision and strength.

How can you reach out to people on TV, on other media forms, to urge them to accept governance and learn to comply with laws on rainwater harvesting, on waste treatment locally, on helping to bring energy efficiency.

Even simple things on governance of things in our city life has become impossible. So the environment has continuously suffered and eroded.This phenomenon is only about 40 years old, from about 1970. We have lost our respect for water, which used to be Gangajal for our grandfathers. Even throwing freshwater into a kitchen sink or drain would bring you sin, your grandmother said. Today we have commodified it so badly that there is simply no value that we see for it.

As CM, you must get the energy, water, and waste management to be under one corporation with one head to govern their directions. You must invite a professional board of advisors and experts who can offer you directions, assurance, and help you keep promises you can make to people.Tariffs of all three utilities should be increased at least to levels which will avoid losses for the 3 Utilities. If people paid about Rs 1000 per month for water supply, about Rs 2500 for energy per month, and about Rs 1000 for our waste management services, the three utilities will be having enough money to reinvest in infrastructure improvements.

But that is not enough. You need to direct people to take to local solutions for energy and water and waste. They need to cut dependence on government for solving challenges on demand for a better living. Policy must be initiated to invest in energy systems in a way that every house and office and hospital reduces at least 60 per cent of their energy demand load with local generation. This is possible.

Similarly, about 1 lakh liters of water consumption per house can be reduced with simple systems for rainwater harvesting, water/efficient fixtures, and local water treatment and 100 per cent reuse of such treated water. If we achieve this much, the city will return to demand levels for energy and water of 1980! We will not need more than 250 million liters of water for a city of our size — today we need 1 billion liters a day.

We will not need more than 800 megawatts to run our city — today we need 1600 to 2000 megawatts. We will not need to send out our wet waste from home to distant dump-yards at high coats for city, Today we are paying Rs 600 crores a year for carting away our waste and we know the challenge of not disposing it.

More Water Technology Parks like the one BWSSB has created in Jayanagar should be created across Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli, Belgaum and Mysore. Government must promote it among school children so that they become conscious of these future challenges of our cities.

I will give you another example of how you can help people. Bangkok in 2006 decided that they will not spend on public projects for power generation. The King realized that the $1 million a MW of hydel or thermal power, or the $2 million a MW that a nuclear plant costs, can be better spent if given directly to people as low-interest loans for generating power right at home. This meant only 10 pc of net power needed at user end as against the ten times more a public project produces to make up for T&D and other complex losses. When homes or offices are power-positive, they supply it back to the energy grid. Bangkok citizens took to it. Today cities like Adelaide are energy-neutral because of such transfer of funds to individuals than keeping that money in government hands or in public contracts. Paris has done it. Their energy policy encourages people to generate power and to sell power to the state at the smaller levels of 1 kilowatt and 2 kilowatt. These are doable options.

These are fundamental issues. Of course, it is not about a nuclear plant, it is about how we think now that we don’t need any more than 200,000 megawatts of power generation capacity that the country already has. The government now says that it needs 700,000 megawatts. Who are these people who made these estimates? Why will they need so much power when our actual energy consumption in our cities is no more than about 30,000 megawatts? We need all these projected demand figures only because we do not want to think of local energy generation and consumption. Energy produced at the central level has to be 10 times what it is at the user level simply because of T&D losses, of DC/AC losses and so on.

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