MUMBAI: Stating that water is a “natural resource that belongs to the entire nation” and not to any private entity, the Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday directed the government to requisition or take charge of all private wells and bore wells for as long as the state faces water shortage.
The directions came when a vacation bench of the HC led by justice BR Gavai was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) on the acute water shortage in the state. The bench also directed the state to take stock of the water available in dams owned by private individuals or corporate groups, and to “divert surplus water from such sources” for drinking purposes for the general public.
On May 5, a regular bench of the court had directed all IPL matches be shifted out of Maharashtra this year owing to water shortage. At the time, the bench had kept a part of the petition pending. It had directed the Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) to ensure adequate supply of drinking water to droughtaffected areas. On Tuesday, it was brought to the bench’s notice that the MWRRA had since become defunct, as the members have completed their tenures. The petitioners informed the bench that drought-affected areas such as Latur and Aurangabad had not received water for the past eight days.
The bench then directed the state to revive the MWRRA within a week either by constituting a new authority or by “renewing the tenure of the old members”.
“When the state is going through a dark and grim time such as the current acute water shortage, the MWRRA must be revived to ensure equitable distribution of water,” the bench said.
“Once revived, the MWRRA should immediately examine the availability of water in dams owned by private individuals or/and corporate entities, and divert the same for public consumption. Natural resources like water belong to the nation as a whole and not just to some individuals or groups,” the bench said.
The bench has also issued a slew of other directions to the state and the BMC including creating special wards in government hospitals for those suffering from heat stroke, ensuring drinking water is not diverted for construction activities and to consider whether the BMC needs to restrict water supply to slaughter houses until the monsoon.
The bench has also directed all district collectors in drought- af f ected areas to ensure water supply to hospitals for daily operations.
The state government meanwhile informed the court that it has deployed more than 3,000 tankers to supply drinking water to drought-affected areas. Acting advocate general Rohit Deo also told the court the water train to Latur was facing technical difficulties, but the problem had been resolved and the train will reach latur on Wednesday.