Water shortage: Mumbai thirsty for quick solutions

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Apr 03, 2016 11:21 PM IST

The civic body’s plans to tackle water shortage will take at least another five to ten years to implement

Water cuts will be here to stay if the monsoon plays truant in the city this year too. Reason: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has no interim solutions to tide over such a situation.

Modak Sagar lake caters to 12.5% of the city’s water needs.(HT FILE PHOTO)
Modak Sagar lake caters to 12.5% of the city’s water needs.(HT FILE PHOTO)

The plans in store include creating new water sources, setting-up waste water treatment facilities (WWTF) and implementing the Water Development Improvement Project (WDIP) for equitable distribution — all of which will take a minimum 5-10 years to be implemented completely.

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In August 2015, the BMC had imposed 20% water cut for residential properties. In 2014, too, the civic body had imposed 20% water cut for three months for residents. Experts said these can be easily avoided if the BMC looks at interim solutions.

Officials also confirmed the BMC’s planning pattern has changed over the past 20 years. Earlier, the BMC would plan its supply in such a way that it lasts the city until the next June, when monsoons are supposed to hit the city. Changing weather patterns have shifted the planning until the end of July now. However, it has not looked at solutions to move beyond this.

A senior civic official from the hydraulic department, on the condition of anonymity, said, “We do not have any immediate contingency plans. In terms of planning for new water sources, we have the Gargai-Pinjal and Daman Ganga dams, which will be established in the next five to seven years.”

Experts said several loose-ends in the current water distribution system in the city, which if looked at seriously, can provide immediate relief to Mumbaiites.

For instance, 27% of the BMC’s water supply in a day is lost to leakages and water thefts, which amounts to 900 million litres a day. Dhaval Desai, a research fellow from the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Mumbai said, “The wasted water equates to twice the supply of Middle Vaitarna in a day. This is criminal negligence. Mumbai does not have to augment any new channels of water. It just has to plug its leakages strictly.”

Experts also said instead of putting a hefty water-cut on commercial establishments after a bad monsoon, it should stop supplying drinking water to industrial units. Sitaram Shelar, convenor of the Pani Haq Samiti, said, “Setting-up de-salination plants is a costly affair. Instead of doing it themselves, the BMC can ask commercial units to set up these plants. Why waste precious water on industries when people are not getting enough drinking water?”

Critics also point out to schemes such as rain-water harvesting, grey water recycling and tax incentives, which

can change the way Mumbai consumes water.

Gautam Kirtane, a research fellow at ORF, Mumbai, said, “We need awareness campaigns on recycling grey water. The BMC’s rain-water harvesting project was a failed attempt, which needs to be looked at seriously. Attaching tax incentives will be an added boost.”

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