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ICE Kolkata co-hosted an international water expert with professional experience in five continents, jointly with CEAI India, Kolkata Chapter.
Dr. Klaus Kirchenbaur has worked extensively in externally funded projects in under-developed and developing countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa for over three decades.
Dr. Kirchenbaur started his talk with the basic requirements for conducting any water utility masterplan study.
He emphasised that adoption of service levels for different water utilities with regard to local factors, like physical setting, urban morphology, terrain, water resources, people’s water habits, urban planning, population development, etc. was a critical element in framing any masterplan study.
He proposed the new concept of “ability to pay” for the water services as opposed to the more common concepts of “willingness to pay” for the consumers and “willingness to charge” by the service provider.
He put up his argument explaining that to make the water utilities financially sustainable, it becomes essential that the systems are operated and maintained by the service provider from the revenue generated by suitably charging the consumers.
However, at times, it’s observed that such a financial model had made some unrealistic assumptions during the project conception stage and hence, once implemented, the project finances go haywire.
Such a degradation of the system by virtue of payment defaults first affects the service, then the consumers, and ultimately the running of the system as a whole.
He also pointed out that planning for water supply systems must go hand in hand with the corresponding planning on a comparable level of sewage, solid waste and storm water drainage.
The speaker indicted the often-neglected parameter in infrastructure utility master planning, remains the urban planning, its land use mapping, population assessment and projection (for past, present, and future project horizons).
This forms the cornerstone of any long term and large-scale masterplan study for water utilities. Dr. Kirchenbaur explained with examples from projects handled by him to demonstrate on one hand how adequate planning can deliver project benefits effectively and conversely, how poor and improper planning can jeopardise the investment incurred.
Another critical point indicated by the speaker was the vulnerability analysis of the system in place and its environmental impact assessment.
With the growing effect of climate change on urban water utilities, he said it becomes essential to perform such analysis during this planning stage and frame up a contingency plan to address any eventuality.
Dr. Kirchenbaur proposed that the results of such analysis would lead to mitigation measures which may increase the investment costs considerably.
There will be now a feedback loop to the retained solution and the mitigation measures will form part of the retained solution.
However, a short form of these analyses has to be made during the selection process of possible alternatives in order to make the different alternatives comparable.
Dr. Kirchenbaur is a German National, but now lives in Dominican Republic (since 2004), where he is developing a project in aquaculture and ecologic agriculture including market monitoring. He is fluent in Spanish, French, English, apart from German. He is civil engineer with a PhD from University of Stuttgart, Germany, where he had spent 7 years (1972-1979) as a scientific assistant at its Hydraulic Laboratories.
Dr. Kirchenbaur has 35 years of professional experience in water and wastewater engineering mostly in externally funded projects across 5 continents. Over this period, he has developed his forte in general infrastructure planning, project development, rural and urban water supply, sewerage, solid waste management systems, borehole logging and water well drilling, consultancy for executing agencies, feasibility studies, master plans, risk assessment, EIA, final design and works execution in “direct administration”. He has also provided training for utility managers, done assessment, monitoring and evaluation.
He is now leading a team of engineers for an international JV of Italian and Nepalese companies in master planning for water supply and sewerage in Kathmandu Valley.
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