Down the drain | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Down the drain

Rohit Razdan (27), a media marketing professional who lives in Andheri, plans his morning meetings while shaving. But he doesn’t realise that he ends up using 15 litres of water for his shave, something he can manage with two or three litres, reports Bhavika Jain.

mumbai Updated: Dec 04, 2009 00:54 IST
Bhavika Jain

Rohit Razdan (27), a media marketing professional who lives in Andheri, plans his morning meetings while shaving. But he doesn’t realise that he ends up using 15 litres of water for his shave, something he can manage with two or three litres.

That’s typical of how the average Mumbaiite consumes water.

Mumbai’s water shortage isn’t just a story of neglect and scanty rainfall, it’s also one of wastage.

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai’s per capita consumption of water is 90 litres a day. That’s well below the national norm of 150 litres.

Of the 90 litres, over 75 percent is used for non-potable purposes like bathing and washing.

About 700 million litres of the 3,450 million litres supplied to the city every day are lost to theft and leakages. Another 200 million litres are simply wasted. That’s 900 million litres that the city could have utilised to bridge the shortfall with its 4,300 million litres a day (MLD) demand.

Incidentally, 900 MLD is more than the daily requirement of Pune.

“Mumbaiites must use water judiciously. If you leave a tap open for one minute, you waste 12 litres,” said Anil Diggikar, additional municipal commissioner.

“Mumbai has enough water for 24-hour supply, but it’s wasted because there are too many leaks in the old pipe network,” said David Ehrhardt, chief executive of Castalia Ltd, a global infrastructure consultancy, in a study in June 2007 of Andheri’s water supply.

The BMC has responded to the crisis on several fronts. Apart from introducing a 15 per cent water cut for residential structures, it is undertaking awareness drives to impress upon people the need to save water. “We also introduced telescopic rates, which means that those who use more pay more,” said a civic official, requesting anonymity.

But it’s also a question of maintenance. The pipelines are over 100 years old and cannot take the pressure. On average, there are 250 major pipeline bursts every year in Mumbai, which works out to one every 36 hours.

Each time a pipe bursts, around 5 lakh people face water cuts from a few hours to two days.

“Sometimes, the bursts are due to the carelessness of agencies like the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Agency,” said the official.

“We have started replacing old mains and are constructing tunnels instead of laying new pipelines as they are easy to maintain and cannot be encroached upon,” said Diggikar. Besides, replacing pipelines is slow and cumbersome work made more difficult by a lack of maps of the underground network.

Experts said the BMC should invest in advanced equipment to detect leaks. “Even today, we follow the age-old method of putting our ears to the pipeline and listening to the gushing water to locate leaks,” said P.R. Sanglikar, retired deputy municipal commissioner.