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One year later: Pune’s water management continues to be deficient

Unmonitored tanker supply is rampant and water level in dams is very low. How is city’s water being managed? A PMC control room is in place, but not activated. Activists have written to CM for intervention

pune Updated: May 30, 2019 15:00 IST
Parth Welankar
Parth Welankar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,One year later,water management
The main reasons for the acute water deficiencies in a number of parts of Pune were a) System of ‘Water Affidavits’ prevalent in the PMC, b) poor management of water tankers and theft of water from PMC’s water filling stations.(HT/PHOTO)

In May, 2018, Hindustan Times, through a series of reports, had exposed serious deficiencies in water management by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The main reasons for the acute water deficiencies in a number of parts of Pune were a) System of ‘Water Affidavits’ prevalent in the PMC, b) poor management of water tankers and theft of water from PMC’s water filling stations.

Here’s an update on the situation as it exists today.

While the city administration has done its administrative part of issuing notifications and directives related to installations of GPRS systems for monitoring movement of water tankers and CCTV camera systems to keep a watch on the water filling stations, even a year, work on the ground has not been completed.

Investigations by this newspaper last year had revealed that the CCTV cameras and water metres at the water filling stations were not working.

The situation today, a year later, reveals that while the private water tankers operators had installed GPRS systems in their tankers, the civic body did not make any move to monitor movements of their tankers. In February 2019, PMC commissioner Saurabh Rao issued a notification stating that all the water tankers should have GPRS systems installed.

Following the notification, nearly 80 per cent of the water tanker operators have GPRS systems installed on their water tankers, however, the PMC has still not made a control room fully operational which can have a check on the movement of water tankers.

A spot visit to the control room located at Savarkar Bhavan near Balgandharva auditorium revealed that the control room currently has no equipment in place other than four chairs.

Declining to speak on the reasons for delay for establishing a control room, B Dandge, chief of PMC control room said, “We are working on a war footing to completely set up the room.”

In its report on May 23 last year, HT had highlighted that one of PMC’s official water tanker operators was also involved in running a private bottled water plant.

One of the other promises which the PMC has partially fulfilled is the installation of automatic water metres and CCTV systems at all its water tanker filling stations.

Of the seven authorised water filling station in the city, the one at Ramtekdi which fills nearly 75 water tankers daily does not have CCTV systems.

Pravin Gedam, superintendent engineer, water supply department, PMC said, the work for the same is underway and very soon it will be installed at Ramtekdi as well.

Water tanker control room at Savarkar Bhavan currently has only four chairs and no equipment required for operating the control room. ( Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo )

PMC fails to monitor movement of water tankers; control room has no equipment

Despite repeated assurances, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has failed to monitor the movement of the authorised water tankers operating within the city limits.

In its previous reports, HT had exposed how water filled by the tankers from the PMC’s authorised filling stations was being diverted and supplied to private establishments at high costs. It was to prevent this that the PMC had decided to ensure that water tankers authorised by the PMC were installed with GPS tracking devices. These would then be linked to a PMC control room where the movement of these tankers would be tracked to prevent diversion of water supply.

Taking cognizance of the reports in HT, the PMC’s water department had assured that the GPS system would be installed and monitored through a command and control room.

However, a year later, while nearly 80 per cent of the water tankers have been fitted the GPS systems; the civic body is yet to commence the operations of the control room.

A spot visit to the Control Room at Savarkar Bhavan revealed that the civic body had not procured the basic equipment needed for operating the command and control room. Just four chairs were kept in the control room located at the Savarkar Bhavan near Balgandharva auditorium.

B Dandge, chief of PMC’s control room said, “Just last week, we got hold of the office space where the control room is to be established. Hence, we haven’t been able to completely set up the infrastructure needed. However, the process for doing the same is underway.”

He said, “We will make the control room completely operational by the second week of June. All the necessary systems manned by a team of IT officials will be made operational at the control room as we intend to minutely track the movement of the water tankers in the city.”

He said once the control room becomes operational, “we will be able to completely stop the illegal operations of the water tanker mafia.”

According to PMC officials, at least 500 tankers are plying in the city on a daily basis presently, of which 200 belong to PMC and are fitted with the GPS system. Roughly 300 water tankers are private which pay Rs 500 as water fees and supply water to private residential areas at commercial rates.

“Nearly 80 per cent of these numbers of tankers have installed the GPS systems. We have stopped supplying water to those tankers who do not have GPS installed” said Dandge.

Given the inadequate and inequitable distribution of water by PMC, the demand for supply of water by tankers has been rising every year.

This has led to the exploitation of residents in many parts of the city, notably eastern Pune, by the water tanker operators who have been demanding extortionist rates for water supply.

Over the last five years, the demand for tanker supply has increased from 1.42 lakh tanker trips in 2012-13 to over 2 lakh tanker trips in 2018-19.

Each tanker carries 10,000 litres of water on an average.

Tighter surveillance at PMC water filling stations

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been doing better in comparison to last year in terms of surveillance at civic water filling stations.

In a series of reports in May 2018, HT exposed how closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and water metres were not working at civic water filling stations.

PMC currently has seven authorised water tanker filling stations in the city at Wadgaon sheri, Parvati, Chatuhshrungi, Yerawada, Ramtekdi, Padmavati and Patwardhan baug.

Out of these seven water tanker filling stations, only Ramtekdi does not have operational CCTV system.

VG Kulkarni, chief, water department, PMC said, “Except for the Ramtekdi filling station, all the other stations have operational CCTV systems and automatic water metres that are closely monitored. As far as the issues in Ramtekdi is concerned, the process for installing this infrastructure is underway and will be completed shortly.”

HT investigation done last year revealed that the CCTV system at Parvati water filling station, had been directed to the opposite direction, leaving authorities unable to track movement of the tankers. However, a year later the situation has changed.

Taking cognisance of HT reports, in November 2018, Saurabh Rao, commissioner, PMC with a team of officials visited the Parvati water filling station to inspect whether the CCTV systems and automatic water metres are functional.

Consequently, all the monitoring systems at the Parvati filling stations were put in place, post the orders from the commissioner.

Not only in Parvati filling station, but at other stations as well, the CCTV systems are operational. The water that is getting filled in the tankers is being monitored through the automatic water metres installed at the filling stations.

In the last year, the civic body installed a total of 29 CCTV systems and 21 automatic water metres.

According to the data shared by the PMC, a total of over 19, 000 trips has been made by the water tankers those who are awarded the tender of supplying water.

Besides, other nearly 6,000 trips have been done by those tankers who have got the passes to fill the water at the authorised water tanker filling stations in the city.

Number of CCTV and automatic water meters installed at water filling stations

1) Wadgaon sheri: CCTV systems: 5, Water meters: 3

2) Parvati: CCTV systems: 7, Water meters: 7

3) Chatuhshrungi: CCTV systems: 8, Water meters: 4

4) Yerawada: CCTV systems: 1, Water meters: 1

5) Ramtekdi: CCTV systems: 0, Water meters: 2

6) Padmavati: CCTV systems: 5, Water meters: 3

7) Patwardhan baug: CCTV: 1, Water meters: 1

First Published: May 30, 2019 14:59 IST