A recent story by the Times of India, Mumbai talks about the massive water thefts and leakages across Mumbai. Notwithstanding the massive  shortage plaguing the city, civic officials are doing little to snap unauthorised connections. The article says that civic officials were not even aware of these lines and that who the beneficiaries were. “In my ward (Appapada), there are people who had officially applied for a  connection five years ago, but they are yet to get it. However, if you pay Rs 2,000, you get a supply overnight,’’ alleged Vidya Chavan, NCP Corporator from Malad(E). A monthly amount of Rs 200 is collected by the local slumlord.

For the illegal supplies, a small pipe is welded into the main one and since it is not done properly, leakage starts showing up. Moreover,as these makeshift pipes are usually laid on the ground, vehicles run over them, leaving them with more punctures. “This is sheer wastage. It would be better for the BMC to give legal connections rather than waste their money and  in this way,’’ said Chavan.

Activists say that the root cause of the problem is a 1996 circular which was issued by the BMC banning  supply to slum dwellers settled in the city post-1995. “After the state announced January 1, 1995, as the cut-off date for slum rehabilitation, the authorities said one of the ways to discourage proliferation of slums would be to deny them access to basic amenities. But it has not worked as the people are obtaining  through illegal means,’’ said Sitaram Shelar, project co-ordinator, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action.

A  connection in the slum is given on the basis of either a photo-pass, name on the voters’ list and a ration card. One  connection is given to a minimum of five households and a maximum of 15 households. Often a person who has been staying in the slum applies periodically for a new connection, which is then given to the post-1995 residents. According to D’- Souza, this is done in connivance with the local civic engineers. The current rate for an illegal connection in Andheri is around Rs 20,000, he said. “As the connection is unmetered, the BMC does not collect any charge and the money goes into the pocket of the  mafia,’’ he said.

Access to clean water has become a problem worldwide across developing nations and with the rise in population and lack of urban planning, this crisis is going to only going to worsen. It presents a huge opportunity for social entrepreneurs and businesses to tackle this issue with innovative solutions in technology, processes and delivery. Acara has Clean Water as one of the main themes for 2010 challenge and we hope to solve the problems of water crisis by helping incubate social businesses.