In a first-of-its-kind incident, a water tunnel going from Liberty Garden to Charkop was punctured while an illegal borewell was being dug in Malad on Saturday.
The 12-km tunnel, which supplies water to Malad, Goregaon, Kandivli and Jogeshwari, is around 240 feet below the ground. The incident occurred on Malad Marve Road, where a one-storied structure was being constructed. The borewell was being dug inside this construction site.
“This is very serious. The ward’s water department registered a police complaint. Two people were arrested,” said Deputy Municipal Commissioner Dinesh Gondalia. When the two realised they had damaged the tunnel, they haphazardly sealed the crack. When water was seen oozing out of this seal, the ward office was informed.
“We will have to re-excavate the area, and pass a camera through the tunnel to know the exact extent of damage. Only then can we repair it,” said Vinay Deshpande, chief hydraulic engineer. He added that water supply to the area will be affected until repair work is complete.
Anil Diggikar, additional municipal commissioner, said the city cannot afford a repeat of such a breach, because over the next two years, most of Mumbai’s water pipelines will be replaced by tunnels of massive capacity.
“A punctured water tunnel is expensive to fix and we lose a lot of water. Even a small crack can affect supply to many areas,” said Diggikar, pointing out that the tunnel from Malabar Hill to Cross Maidan is only 70 feet below the ground, placing it at great risk from such random digging.
Diggikar said these tunnels are constructed at a cost of several hundred crores. To avoid a repeat puncture anywhere else in the city, the civic body plans to make it a lot harder to get permission to dig borewells, and is considering fixing a maximum depth up to which they can be dug.