#VinitasPune: Pune’s Water Debacle Has Multiple Causes

Image used for representation only.

Incredible, Yet True! Just when we thought that we had a decent monsoon this year, Pune is now staring at a water crisis…  

Pune is one of the several Smart Cities identified by the government, yet, water, a fundamental need of citizens may soon be available only at a premium.

Foreseeing this crisis well before the rest, The Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers Association (PRAHA) asked its member restaurants to start serving only half a glass of water to customers.

According to its President, Ganesh Shetty, 100 ml water is wasted per customer and with this measure, he has been able to save 1,600 litres of water per day.

Certainly a good move by PRAHA, but considering that Pune received decent rainfall – (Approx 1000mm in 2018), are the alarm bells ringing too early?

Traditionally, this crisis shows up in March but, this time around we are probably going the Shimla way which was a region that faced a crisis as late as June, resulting in 30% dip in tourists.

Understanding the problems:

Depletion of Groundwater: 

Clearly, much like New Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, the construction activity is very high, resulting in depletion of groundwater. This is a precious source as it accumulates in aquifers, of which several are dead with the excavation activity.

Col.(Retd) S.Dalvi, District Manager, Pune, The Climate Reality Project, India sounds the alarm bells. He says, ‘this critical report is from Govt of India’s think tank. It states by 2020, just two years from now, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad will run out of groundwater, affecting the very survival of more than 100 million population.

Shimla and Uttarakhand has already joined the list of water stressed places. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people.

We should not forget India’s fresh water share is barely 4.5 % of the World’s total fresh water, whereas our population share is 18 %.’’

Leaking Water Pipelines:

The second cause of water shortage is the leaking pipeline that runs from Khadakwala to Parvati Water Works.

As per PMC’s own admission, there is 35% leakage during the water’s journey.

Presently, PMC has adopted alternative arrangements, yet till this time, the everyday wastage seems huge. The water department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), on its website, www.pmc.gov.in states: ‘Water is supplied to Pune city through the Khadakwasla dam.

As it is necessary to keep providing continuous water supply to Pune city, it has become impossible to repair the canals running from the Khadakwasla dam. This leads to leakages from the canal on a large scale.

At the same time, as the population on both sides of the canals is increasing, water from the canal gets contaminated due to things such as throwing garbage, washing clothes etc in the open canal. Due to this, the cost of water processing is increasing. Taking into consideration the above facts, the facility of providing separate closed taps for Pune city was undertaken.

In the past, an iron-casted pipeline with a diameter of 3000 m.m. was laid between Khadakwasla dam and Parvati Water Station. However, as city’s water demand has increased, it has become necessary to uplift water from the canal. Taking into consideration the water demand for the year 2050, a pipeline has been laid on the aforesaid work.’’

Water Tanker Lobby:

The third cause of scarcity is the water tanker lobby. I still recollect the time when we worked with a daily newspaper in Pune and was informed of a press conference by a corporator who alleged that another one was stopping the PMC regular water supply to a locally so that the citizens were forced to take tankers. A couple of hours later he called off the press conference! No prizes for guessing why.

As per news reports, over the past five years, the demand for water tankers 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.

Erratic Distribution:

The fourth cause is the distribution of water to Puneites and agricultural lands in Pune district.

From full capacity in August, water stocks in Pune’s four dams have come down to 61 per cent by November 10, which the authorities say is the lowest in last three years.

Several allegations of political leaders channelising water meant for Puneites to their home constituencies have surfaced over the past few years.

New Neighbourhoods With Infrastructure:

Indiscriminate permission granted to builders for both residential and commercial properties without infrastructure.

Sans roads and drinking water pipelines results in water shortage and PMC takes no responsibility to provide public utilities and leaves it to the builder. From the day of possession of flats, residents have to dole out money for water tankers, the prices of which are raised indiscriminately during the summer.

So, what’s the solution after all?

While we can hope and pray that PMC will act, citizens must initiate steps to conserve as much water as possible. Like they say, little drops of water, little grains of sand, make a mighty ocean and a pleasant land! 


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 

Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

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