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HT Spotlight: How tanker ‘mafia’ controlling flow of water in Pune

Feeding off an ever-growing city’s ever-growing need for water, and the PMC’s inability to meet the rising exigency, a water-tanker mafia now controls the flow of a free natural resource

pune Updated: Apr 19, 2018 17:11 IST
Abhay Khairnar
Abhay Khairnar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Water Tanker Mafia,water scarcity
While the PMC supplies water to tankers at a nominal cost of Rs 300 per tanker, housing societies are normally charged between Rs 700 to Rs 1,200 per tanker, depending on how far they are located from the filling station(RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

Although the common perception is that the city has ample water supply from dams such as Khadakwasla, Varasgaon, Panshet and Temghar, and that the per capita water supply is higher than other cities, the ground reality is quite the opposite.

Pune Municipal Corporation’s water department has said that the demand for water tankers by a large number of housing societies in the city has been on the rise in the past few years. According to data released by the water department, in 2017, water tanker trips (distributing almost 10,000 litres of water per trip) rose to an all-time high of 1.98 lakh from 1.77 lakh in the previous year.

With the merging of 34 villages to the Pune municipal limits in two phases, the city has grown and expanded rapidly, playing host to a number of residential colonies in far-flung areas. The inability of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to facilitate adequate water supply in these areas as per demand has resulted in a growing demand for water tankers.

Feeding off the residents’ never-ending demand for water and the unavailability of other sources, a deep-rooted water tanker mafia is now prevalent in the city. Apart from the huge cost of such tankers, the water provided is also of poor quality and unhygienic, allege residents. This also means that housing societies have to bear the additional burden of running water treatment plants at their own expense.

Over the past five years, the demand has increased from 1.42 lakh tanker trips (each tanker with an average capacity of 10,000 litres) in 2012-13 to 1.98 lakh in 2017-18. VG Kulkarni, PMC’s water department head, acknowledged that water supply through tankers was increasing and that the city did not have a working water line network.

While residents’ dependence on water tankers is usually high during summer, especially in the eastern parts of the city such as Kondhwa, Hadapsar, Kharadi, Vimannagar and Ahmednagar road, in some areas and housing societies, water tankers are required throughout the year.

While the PMC has 10 tanker filling points in different parts of the city, the civic body’s attempts to install CCTV cameras at the stations to monitor the number of tankers serviced per day failed as the cameras were mysteriously destroyed.

Earlier, attempts by the PMC to install Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track the movement of water tankers had also failed. The PMC has been keen on the use of GPS devices to check whether water was being diverted by tanker operators at a higher profit for industrial use.

As per their routine, water tankers are provided with clean and filtered water by the PMC at 10 filling stations in the city. While the PMC supplies water to tankers at a nominal cost of Rs 300 per tanker, housing societies are normally charged between Rs 700 to Rs 1,200 per tanker, depending on how far they are located from the filling station. However, water tanker operators have not only been found to inflate the amount charged from housing societies, but have often diverted water supply to industries at Rs 2,500 per tanker, according to citizen activists.

Vivek Velankar, a citizen activist, alleged that there is no regulation in place on the tanker lobby in the city. He said that residents living in housing societies were at the mercy of the tanker mafia as they were working hand-in-glove with politicians and the civic administration.

While the PMC supplies water free of charge to some housing societies in the city and to areas near Uruli and Fursungi, most housing societies have to pay exorbitant prices for the water supply.

Officials and citizen-activists, including Velankar, said that there is absolutely no control over the pricing of water by the tanker lobby. Tanker operators charge as per demand, inflating the cost during summer months. Residents living in fringe areas of the city are expected to pay more for the water supply.

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 14:46 IST