Mumbai is set to receive 455 million litres of additional water per day by the end of the upcoming monsoon season as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is about to complete construction on the Middle Vaitarana dam in the Shahapur taluka of Thane district,about 90 km from the countrys financial capital. On the other hand,Shahapur town and its villages where along with Middle Vaitarna,four other dams supplying water to Mumbai are located are grappling with one of the most acute drought-like situations in recent times. As many as 923 villages and 4,345 tribal hamlets in 88 tehsils and 15 districts of the state have been affected.
Villagers of Shahapur had written to Water Supply and Sanitation Minister Laxman Dhoble on May 1,asking for immediate measures to solve water crises in the area or else they will break and damage the big pipelines that transport water from their own backyard all the way to Mumbai. Over 30,000 villagers across the 58 villages in the Shahapur taluka have been relying on 10 tankers sent by the Taluka Samiti once in four days.
Each village has up to two public wells,all of which have been lying parched since early March. The jumbo tankers,each carrying about 10-15,000 litres of water,fill up these wells whenever they visit. Dashrath Bhalke,a resident of Madgaon village,said that a number system has been informally created amongst the villagers. Women stand in queues around all sides of the well,a day in advance. As the tanker arrives,chaos erupts through the village as everyone runs towards the well. Villagers barely manage to get about three buckets of water per house for four days, said Bhalke.
Bhalke is a member of the district-wide Shramajeevi Sanghatana that has been fighting for adequate water supply to these tribal villagers,most of whom have worked as labourers in the past at dam sites of Bhatsa,Tansa,Upper and Middle Vaitarna and Modak Sagar that supply 90 per cent of Mumbais water. Amongst the worst affected villages are Vashala,Dhanganmal and Taranwadi in Shahapur and Chinchavli and Dawrepada in Bhiwandi
Villagers are well aware that water from lakes,barely five km away from their village are being transported to big cities while their taps have been running dry.
Independent MLA from Vasai,Vivek Pandit,who founded the Shramajeevi Sanghatana said a group of affected villagers along with workers from the organisation would meet Dhoble in Mumbai on Tuesday to put forth their demands. Seven municipal corporations including Mumbai,Navi Mumbai and Thane city are getting ample water from Shahapur area. These tribal people don’t get water and have not got adequate compensation for parting with their agricultural land on which huge pipelines have been built, he said.
A list of long-term demands will be given to Dhoble. These include handing over of over 250 defunct water supply schemes for the area to the Maharshtra Jeevan Pradhikaran. We have asked for a laying of a proper water supply network for all the villages and taking measures to improve the ground water table levels here, said Pandit.