29 September, 2020

This Man Owns The River

India's first ever 'water privatisation' scheme looks successful, but no one asked the small fish

Jitender Gupta
This Man Owns The River
For some, he's a path-breaking entrepreneur. For others, he's a conscienceless violator of human rights. Kailash Soni is ceo of Radius Water Limited and author of India's first-ever private water supply scheme, in Chhattisgarh's Durg area. His is a "success" story that has inspired a host of similar projects across the country.

Soni has shown that private entrepreneurship in water supply can be efficient, financially viable, cost-effective and environment friendly. Everybody's happy: Soni, who's making money, the industrialists who are assured a constant water supply, and the state of Chhattisgarh which is attracting industry because of the plentiful water and power. Everybody, that is, except for a few thousand villagers scattered along the banks of the river that Soni now "owns", by virtue of a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) agreement with the state government.

The villagers have lived beside the semi-perennial Sheonath river for centuries, through droughts and floods. It has watered their crops, supplied plentiful fish. Ghats, where village folk bathed and washed...


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