Japan Bank gives Rs 1,200-cr loan for GMDA scheme

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The State is receiving a loan of around Rs 1,200 crore from the Japan Bank for a drinking water scheme for the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Area. The State will have to repay only Rs 180 crore of the loan from a Japan Bank, while the Central Government will bear the burden of Rs 1,080 crore of the loan. The total amount the State will get for the purpose will stand at around Rs 1,500 crore, if the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) allocation for the purpose is also taken into account.

The conditions for getting the JNNURM and Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which is now known as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan are—there should be a single authority to manage the scheme, the board of the authority – Guwahati Metropolitan Drinking Water and Sewerage Board – should be run by an IAS officer as the managing director – the functional head of the Board.

The State would have to pay interest at the rate of 1.2 per cent on its loan share, said Guwahati Development Department (GDD) Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the State Assembly today. He was replying to a debate on The Guwahati Metropolitan Drinking Water and Sewerage Board Bill, 2009.

He also informed the House that the State Government had also proposed to earmark an amount of Rs 16 crore to acquire the land in and outside the Ramsar site wetland Deepor Beel to free it from pollution.

The Government is also going for a sewage treatment plant for the city. This will help recycling most of the used water for various purposes. Sewage generated by the city will not be released to the wetlands and other water bodies of the city where even the ground water is facing the threat of contamination. The Government has prepared a detailed project report (DPR) for the purpose and the Japan Bank has shown interest to finance this project too, he said.

Opposing the suggestion of the Opposition members like Dr Alaka Sarma (AGP), Dr Aditya Langthasa (AUDF) and Uddhav Barman (CPI-M) to send the bill to the select committee, he said that it would delay the entire process of securing the Japan Bank loan. Many states are hankering after the loan. If the bill is sent to the select committee, this may send a wrong signal to the Government and this will finally deprive the State of the said loan, said the Minister.

Agencies like the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), North Guwahati Municipality and Panchayats of the Azara-Dharapur areas are sought to be amalgamated to create the new authority for running the scheme, as per the suggestions of the MLAs of the Greater Guwahati area, he said.

He, however, accepted a suggestion of Dr Sarma to induct a representative from the State Pollution Control Board in the authority, but, in a later phase.

Commenting on the water tax proposed in the bill, the Minister said that the amount of tax would be determined by the board proposed to run the scheme as per the approval of a regulatory body—Guwahati Water Regulatory Authority. This body will include a representative from the consumers. If more representatives of the consumers are required to be inducted into this authority that would also be done with the approval of the Finance Department, he said.

To enter into any contracts with any agency on water supply etc, he said, only the board had been authorised, he said.

Pranab Kalita (Independent) also took part in the discussion suggesting several amendments. But Dr Sarma and Kalita withdrew their suggestions and the House passed the bill through a voice vote.