Desalination plant faces opposition from red rice farmers
The ambitious desalination plant of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has hit another roadblock. Around 150 farmers from Ghodbunder Road, who will lose their land for this plant, have now opposed the project, claiming that it will displace them from their rightful farm lands. The corporation will be acquiring 28 hectares (70 acres) of farmland for this desalination plant which had earlier faced resistance from the opposition party.
The farmers had visited the town planning department of the TMC for a hearing on Wednesday. They claimed that the Waghbil to Gaimukh stretch is the only stretch in Thane where red rice is cultivated and displacing the farmers will wipe out the paddy fields.
Thane city receives 480mld water every day from TMC’s own water supply scheme, along with contribution from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and Shahad-Temghar Water Supply Authority (STEM). Taking into consideration the increasing population of the city, this water will be insufficient in the future. In 2016, Thane civic commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal had proposed desalinating the creek water and using it for potable purposes. The plant will be able to provide 200mld of water on a daily basis.
Sagar Patil, one of the farmers whose land is affected said, “We got notices in the month of April, stating that our land will be acquired for the project and to put forth any suggestion and objections we have within a month. There are around 150 farmers whose total 70 acres of land will be acquired by the corporation. The said land was barren land, which the state government gave to us for cultivation. Each of the farmers own at least one acre of land in this stretch. The state gave us the land in the 1960s, which we are cultivating till now.”
Patil said that the last of the remaining paddy fields in Thane city are in Waghbil, Kavesar, Ovala, Mogharpada and Gaimukh areas.
“While the fields do not produce much crop, we produce enough to fulfil our year-long requirement. If the corporation acquires the land, the all these paddy fields from the state will vanish. Moreover we will also lose our land. The corporation has not given any clarity as to the compensation. We should be compensated appropriately if they are adamant on taking away our farms,” said Pritesh Patil, another farmer.
The TMC had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a private agency last year and are in need of a place near the creek to set up the plant. “We chose a 28-hectre reserved plot at Kavesar. The area is reserved as a recreational plot; however, we had tabled a proposal to change the reservation from recreational to desalination plant, in July last year. The general body approved the proposal. Out of the 28 hectares, 22 hectares were supposed to be used to set up the plant, while the remaining area will be used for the development of the waterfront, building an access road and laying of pipeline,” a TMC official said.
He added that though the plot is now used for cultivation by the farmers, it is still owned by the state. “The state is the prime owner of the plot and has the right to change the reservation. We can also send a proposal to the state to de-reserve the plot. However, we will not let any of the farmers suffer, we will come up with a policy that will give them Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) which will benefit them,” he added.
About the plant
To ease the water woes of the city, the corporation proposed in June, 2016 that it will desalinate the creek water and use it for drinking purpose. The projects will be set up on a public private participation basis where the corporation will not have to shell out money. The city has a vast coastline, the creek water is unexplored. This kind of desalination happens in countries like Japan, Australia, China, North Africa and European countries. In India the plants are set up in Gujarat and Chennai. The corporation plans to use the same technology in Thane. The treatment plan will treat 200 mld of creek water every day. Thane Municipal Corporation will be the first in the state to implement this. TMC has signed the MoU with Fontus Desalia Water Pvt Ltd ten days ago. Work will begin after monsoon and the project will be completed in the next two years.
The need for the desalination plant
The city receives 480 mld of water from four sources. However, this summer due to last year’s scanty rainfall, the water available was merely 314 mld, imposing a water cut of over 40% in the city. The corporation tried many ways of conserving water including rain water harvesting and water recycling, however, the issue was not resolved. The residents had to face a shutdown of 48 to 60 hours. The desalination process will make an additional source of water available for usage.
How it works
The plant will be based on ‘reverse osmosis’ technology, commonly referred to as RO, which is a water purification process that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from the water.
The corporation will spend Rs15 lakh to hire consultants for the project.
TMC will also provide the land and bear the power cost of the project, the remaining expenses will be incurred by the agency allotted the work.
The company will be responsible to ensure that the potable water fulfils all the required water quality criteria. This water will be connected to the distribution system of the corporation.
The company can sell the water to the corporation at the rates finalised by the corporation, the company can also sell few bottled water to remove the maintenance expense of the plant.
Water per day: 480 mld
TMCs own water supply scheme (water source: Bhatsa Dam): 200 mld
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation(water source: Bhatsa and Tansa Dam): 60 mld
Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) (water source: Barvi Dam): 110 mld
Shahad- Temghar Water Supply Authority (STEM) (water source: Barvi Dam): 110 mld