Early in 1999 an agreement, which is the first of its kind, was signed by the Jordanian government and a private joint venture to take over the management of water and wastewater of Greater Amman. The joint venture was formed by two foreign groups and a local company. This deal was presented as another privatization measure.
Sufficient time has passed to justify an evaluation of the results, as many Ammanites have not noticed the change, or their attention was not brought to any change if any. It is time to identify and quantify the results of water privatization, and to determine whether this experiment was a success or a failure.
The above-mentioned joint venture operates under the trade name “LEMA.” It is responsible for the operation of Zai Water Treatment Plant, the management of 100 water wells, 45,000 kilometers of water network, 1,500 kilometers of sewage system and two wastewater treatment plants. The company serves around two million people.
LEMA says that it set eight staff in a modern center for complaints and control to receive citizens' telephone calls around the clock. It claims that complaints notified before 12 noon on any day will be attended to, and repaired before midnight — i.e., within 12 hours. It is not therefore a coincidence that the streets of Amman are no longer flooded with water as was once the case.
In this respect, over 70,000 leaks resulting from broken water pipes were repaired, thus reducing the average number of outstanding leaks from 350 to 50, saving a lot of precious water. Leaks are now repaired in hours rather than days. More than 60,000 broken or worn-out water meters have been replaced with new ones in order to improve reading accuracy.
The company claims that water processed at the Zai treatment plant, reaching 4,850 cubic meters an hour, is drinkable with a quality not less than the water available to the city of Paris. The Zai plant supplies domestic water to 40 percent of Amman residents and most of Balqa Governorate. The production capacity of this important plant will be doubled to 90 million cubic meters a year, within two years. The expansion project will be funded by Japan and Germany.
The efficient management of water distribution presents some unpleasant consequences for those who used to cheat. The company discovered more than 1,391 illegal practices. The perpetrators were either obliged to halt their wrongdoing or referred to the courts. Over 17,912 disconnections have been completed with new internal caps precluding illegal links. On the sewage systems, some 1,391 illegal connections were discovered.
Collection of payments on water bills is now strictly conducted. The grace period is only 15 days, after which there is a final warning, followed by a cutting of supplies to those who do not pay. Very soon handheld computers will be introduced to help avoid human error during meter readings. Bill issuing will later be done at the same time on site.
We venture to claim that the privatization of water management in Amman was a success. For some reason the people of Amman were not adequately informed. The success in this pioneering experiment should encourage the government to expand the benefits to other parts of the country, to put an end to inefficiency and waste. To have 55 percent of the water unaccounted for, as was the case when water was managed by the government, was intolerable and could not continue. — ( Jordan Times )
Dr Fahed Fanek
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)