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
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
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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