Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) employee Bhanudas Kale’s day starts at 3.30am, when he takes his bicycle from his residence in Jai Bhim Nagar behind Chheda Nagar, Chembur, to another slum near Govandi station, where he fills drinking water for his family of 10. A native of Marathwada, Kale says leaving his house any later would result in fights with other slum-dwellers in the vicinity. Kale has no other option as the 150 huts in Jai Bhim Nagar do not get BMC water.
Kale is one of the three million people in the city, who suffer daily, says Pani Haq Samiti’s (PHS) convenor Sitaram Shelar. The organisation fighting for citizens’ ‘Right To Water’ recently held a protest march at Fort’s Azad Maidan on March 22, celebrated as World Water Day.
Shelar says the city is facing a crisis in water distribution owing to class and caste discrimination. “A person staying in a hutment gets 45 litres a day, while somebody staying in a building gets 140 litres a day. The BMC is also not ready to supply water to slums that have come up after 1995, slums on central government and railway land and those staying in pavements,” Shelar said. In 2011, the PHS had filed a PIL in the Bombay high court challenging the state government’s circular to civic bodies to not supply water to illegal /hutments/constructions. In a landmark judgement, the HC upheld the right to water and directed the BMC to frame a policy to supply water to slums.
The policy is, however, stuck in the BMC with parties like the Shiv Sena and the MNS protesting against the people staying in these slums, who they say are not originally from Mumbai.
Based on the UN’s 2010 resolution on Right to Water and Sanitation, the Samiti has been working towards equitable distribution of water in the city. Shelar says the city has enough water to meet its needs, but needs a major changes in consumption patterns. “Mumbai supplies 280 litres per capita per day when the national average is 135 litres. We need strong awareness to curb wastage of water,” he said.