291 hectares of forest land to be diverted for Kondhane dam
Just over 291 hectares of forest land (equal to 32 Oval Maidans) in Raigad and Pune districts are likely to be diverted for the controversial Kondhane Dam project which is proposed to be built across the Ulhas River and will provide 245MLD (millions of litre per day) of water a day to emerging localities in the southern end of Navi Mumbai.
The City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), which is executing the project, applied for stage-1 forest clearance on October 16, official documents show. The project’s total land requirement (including non-forested area), is 400 hectares. At a per capita water requirement of 135 litres per day, the dam is expected to benefit a population of 1,850,000 people. Construction work is estimated to take five years, though it is yet unclear when construction will resume.
Ganesh Phadke, executive engineer (Kondhane-Balganga), Cidco, did not respond to calls seeking comment on Saturday. However, a senior official in Cidco’s environment office said, “The project is very much on the cards, but it is starting with a clean slate. The earlier contractor has been blacklisted, and even the detailed project report was prepared afresh by Cidco. Some portion of the water will be used for irrigation, but the majority will go to the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area (Naina) region and also Pushpak Nagar, which are expected to see a big boom once the Navi Mumbai International Airport is constructed.”
The Kondhane dam was the first of several irrigation projects sanctioned during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) regime and had come under the scanner for alleged corruption and cost escalations during the Maharashtra irrigation scam. The Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) was to initially build the dam at a height of 39 metres at a cost of ₹56.16 crore. The first detailed project report was prepared in 2006-07.
The state water resources department had tried to push the project twice earlier with a much higher cost of ₹443.94 crore and a height of about 71 metres, but could not pass the scrutiny of government agencies. Within months of the KIDC taking up the project, its scope was widened and the cost escalated. Construction began in 2011, and by 2012 the project cost climbed to ₹614 crore from ₹56.16 crore, as per an investigation by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). The previous contractor had completed about a quarter of the work, as per previous design specifications. The cost of the revived project, Cidco submitted to the forest department, now stands at ₹155,000 lacs ( ₹1,550 crore).
The subsequent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in 2017 revived the project and handed it over to Cidco, this time as a drinking water project for the 644 sq km Naina, which is located 35kms away from the proposed dam. In 2017, Cidco paid ₹99 crore to the water resources department to acquire the project.
Presently, the rest of Navi Mumbai draws water from the Hetawane Water Supply Scheme MJP’s Patalganga Project, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s Morbe Dam and MIDC’s Barvi Dam.
“The ultimate saturated water demand of present Cidco and Naina area in 2034 is likely to be 1275MLD,” Cidco said in a project brief submitted to the forest department.
As per current specifications, the Kondhane Dam project “envisages construction of 80m high dam across River Ulhas at Kondhane Village with a full reservoir level at EL (elevation). Around 140.0 metres and corresponding storage of 115.98 million cubic meters (MCM)”, the project note clarifies.
The dam will displace two villages, Kondhane and Chochi, and 118 families are proposed to be relocated to about 8kms away. Other villages affected include Udewai, Kune and Nandgaon. As per information submitted to the forest department by Cidco, the process for settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Acts (2006) has been completed.