chapter  5
28 Pages

Can we have a civil-consumer slum, please . . .

Over the same years negotiations were underway with the World Bank to reform

Karnataka’s state level urban water governance and the demonstration zones in

North Karnataka were being designed and implemented, efforts were also taking

place to reform and privatize the public sector water utility responsible for

service provision in Bangalore: the BWSSB. In this chapter I explore a small

programme that was undertaken by the BWSSB over the years 2000-2007. This

programme attempted to connect nearly 50 of Bangalore’s slums to user-pays

water services, and was the first attempt of its kind in the utility’s history. The

motivation for the programme was primarily commercial: to reduce non-revenue

water from public taps and illegal connections, and to increase revenue from an

expanded customer base. In some slum communities this required extending the

piped network into previously unserviced locations. In others it involved remov-

ing public taps and ‘legalizing’ unmetered and unregistered connections. The

efforts of the BWSSB have been applauded as a success, where the drive for

commercial efficiency is regarded as compatible with the needs of the poor (see

for example the ADB 2007). On the one hand, the BWSSB gets to reduce non-

revenue water, increase income and improve its commercial viability. On the

other hand, by being classified as ‘legal’ customers, people in slums secure

greater customer rights and the capacity to demand accountability from their

service provider. Theoretically, it is a win-win situation.