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HT investigation Part IV: Water tanker mafia in Pune holds housing societies to ransom

The indiscriminate construction allowed by PMC without creating the water supply infrastructure has led to this situation

pune Updated: May 22, 2018 15:22 IST
TEAM HT
TEAM HT
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,housing societies,water mafia
Many water tankers make a beeline outside posh housing societies at Kharadi in Pune on Sunday. The population in this area is increasing day by day. (Shankar Narayan/HT Photo )

The eastern Pune localities such as Undri, Kondhwa, Wanowrie, Kharadi and Mundhwa are facing severe water crisis not only during the summers but throughout the year.

The main reason being the indiscriminate construction of housing societies allowed by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) without simultaneously creating the water supply infrastructure.

Consequently, the acute water shortage has led to emergence of a private water trade which is controlled by a well-oiled network of local politicians, water tanker operators and the civic administration, all of who constitute the water mafia.

Starting from Undri, the most parched region of eastern Pune, Kondhwa Khurd, Kondhwa Budruk, parts of Wanowrie, Mohammadwadi, Kharadi, Mundhwa, Wagholi, Chandan Nagar and Hadapsar are severely water deficient. The areas are highly populated and it is only increasing day by day.

Whatever little has been achieved towards better water supply is because of citizens’ forums and RWAs (residents welfare associations) who have fought bitter battles against PMC and local corporators.

Mohammadwadi needs roughly 100 water tankers to meet the growing water needs of its population while Undri requires about 500 water tankers a day to quench the thirst of the citizens and meet their daily requirements.

Similarly, Wagholi is under the grip of the water tanker mafia and the one lakh plus residents are paying roughly ₹75 crores on annual water bills. The Wagholi housing societies association (WHSA) has found the PMRDA to be an ineffective civic body as it has failed to solve basic problems of the residents.

The residents of Wagholi are suffering because of corruption in the Wagholi gram panchayat and an insensitive PMRDA administration. Poor regulation, complete disregard for the law and collapse of the government in Wagholi will lead to urban chaos in the future says Sanjeev Kumar Patil, director, WHSA.

Manoj Dudhankar, Kharadi housing societies welfare association’s secretary says that housing societies have to purchase water from the local water suppliers at exorbitant rates which is approximately ₹ 500 per water tanker of 10,000 litres capacity for utility water used for non-drinking purposes and ₹1,400 per water tanker of 10,000 litres capacity for drinking water.

Similarly, Daljeet Goraya, director, Mohammadwadi citizens forum has demanded nationalisation of private water trade failing which it will lead to complete collapse of urban governance with PMC losing its status as a regulator over the civic and urban affairs of the citizens.

At Wagholi, residents complained that the tanker water is not suitable for drinking and has resulted in illness of children and the elderly.

Classic case of exploitation

Ivy Estate: The residents of Ivy estate, one of the largest residential societies in Wagholi, had a tough time in April, as water from Bhama Askhed dam was not released into the Koregaon Bhima river. This housing society is dependent on water provided by Kolte Patil Developers Ltd. (KPDL) through a water pipeline project from Bhima river to a water treatment plant (WTP) setup inside Ivy Estate. KPDL has promised continuous water supply to customers and has displayed the same on their website too. Residents have paid between ₹32 per square feet to ₹50 per square feet since 2014 to KPDL for the infrastructure cost of the pipeline laid out by the builder from Bhima river.

In addition to this, all societies in Ivy Estate are paying water consumption/operation cost of ₹32 for 1000 litres per day throughout the year.

The daily affairs of Ivy Estate are managed by a Federation team (Regensis Facility Management System - RFMS) a sister firm of KPDL. The residents are unhappy that the federation had failed to inform the societies about the water crisis in advance and also, about shutting down the water pipeline distribution abruptly.

The Ivy apartments is one of the housing societies in the Ivy Estate which has more than 750 flats. The building requires approximately 4 lakh litres per day which amounts to 40 tankers of 10,000 litres each.

The water tanker operators see this as a great opportunity for exploitation and charge exorbitant rates. The tankers don’t arrive on time, forcing the residents suffer a drought-like situation.

Life is inconceivable without water tankers

The residents of west Pune are water-starved and their plight only worsens during summer season, so much so that many have not seen water flowing freely through a tap.

“Earlier, we would get a trickle through PMC water pipeline but now it is a dream,” said Pravin Dhole, a resident of Pimple Saudagar’s Kunal Icon society. One of the largest housing societies with 870 flats, this society completely relies on water tankers for their water supply.

An information board at the entrance to the society informs: “ April 4 to May 15, total trips (water tankers): 532, Save Water”.

This board has been installed since 2008, ever since the last building of the society was occupied.

The society members state that there are as many as 300 societies in their area alone which are completely dependent on water tankers. “There is no concerted effort by the municipal corporation to raise the water level in this area despite the fact that this area has the highest number of tax payers,” Dhole said.

He said that their requirement is for around 5 lakh litres and the supply by the civic body is of hardly 1.5 lakh litres, “so the tankers in a way are filling the gap.” The residents have paid from ₹600 to ₹1400 per tanker during the worst of periods in summers.

Rosewoods housing society in Pimple Saudagar gets water only through tankers. “It’s basically harassment by politicians and the staff of Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporation by not providing adequate supply. We need around 16 tankers per day for 350 flats,” a resident from this society said.

Hinjewadi faces a huge problem as it is a part of a gram panchyat. Most of the new societies in this area get water only through tankers.

“We called for 1,205 tankers during the period from November 2017 till April 2018, at the cost of ₹800 each. We have spent a total of ₹9.64 lakh in the last six months on water tankers,” said Anshul Gupta, a member of Splendour Society’s water team. Even smaller societies such as Delicia Society have borne the brunt.

“We have 48 flats, and we order 6 to 8 tankers in a day. There is not a single drop of water from the local body, In fact no water connection has been given by the gram panchayat. We spent ₹500 to ₹600 per tanker amounting to almost ₹ 70,000-₹80,000 per month,” said Anup Agrawal from Delicia Hinjewadi.

Housing societies from west Pune that fall under the Pune Municipal Corporation are no better on the water scarcity front. Bigger the societies, bigger are the water woes.

Kumar Shanti Niketan is one such society with 774 flats on Baner Pashan link road which faces acute problems. According to Seema Agarwal, a resident, “We have an average of 5 to 6 tankers coming into our society daily. I pay ₹12,000 annually as water charges, just to pay the water tankers. And water charge to the civic body is paid separately in my property tax to PMC. Medha Kulkarni, MLA inaugurated a new water pipeline on our road in August 2017 with a promise to get water to the area in 3 months. But till date the new water pipeline is not operational. In fact during the road construction, the pipeline gets damaged and the water pressure is at its lowest.”

Nikash Lawns with 150 flats needed 10 tankers till last month, at the rate ₹ 700 per tanker. “We have been drinking bottled drinking water for the last three years as there was no municipal supply. But recently we changed the PMC pipeline within the society at the cost of ₹1.5 lakhs and so far we are doing fine as the pressure of the water has also increased,” said Ruchita Jaju, secretary of ‘C’building, Nikash Lawns.

Luxurious apartment societies like Palazzo in Balewadi have their own woes. Pratap Vaikunthe, chairman of Palazzo Apartments, Balewadi, said, “We still rely on water tankers for our daily water needs. We get 2 tankers per day and spend around ₹11,000 per month.”

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First Published: May 22, 2018 14:41 IST