In another significant reversal of a decision taken by the previous Devendra Fadnavis regime, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government is set to overturn a move to cut off water supply from the left bank canal of the Nira-Deoghar dam to Baramati, the pocketborough of NCP president Sharad Pawar.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Cabinet is expected to sanction a proposal cancelling the previous decision, and restoring the supply to Baramati, on Wednesday.
Last June, the Fadnavis government had cleared a proposal of the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) to cut off the supply of “unutilised” water from Nira Deoghar dam to parts of Baramati, Indapur and Purandar in Pune district, contending that these areas were located outside the notified command area of the dam.
The move, which had come just ahead of the Assembly polls, was seen as a means to politically checkmate Pawar, whose party enjoys most of its clout from western Maharashtra. The decision was taken after BJP’s MP from Madha (Solapur), Ranjeetsinh Naik-Nimbalkar (formerly with Congress), and former MP Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil (formerly with NCP) had publicly objected to Baramati drawing excess water for irrigation, while depriving the water-scarce areas in Solapur and Satara.
The BJP had then alleged that Pawar’s nephew Ajit, as the water resources minister in the erstwhile Congress-NCP government, had subverted rules in 2007 to assign 60 per cent water allocation to the Nira-Deoghar left bank to bring more water to Baramati, Indapur and Purandar areas, while leaving 40 per cent of the water for drought-prone tehsils (Khandala, Phalthan, Malshiras, Pandharpur, and Sangola) in Solapur and Satara.
While the dam had been constructed in 2007 itself and has a total capacity of 11.73 TMC (thousand million cubic feet), the distribution canal system work is yet to be completed. Contending that the surplus water in the dam would remain unutilised in the command area till the distribution network was in place, the Congress-NCP government in 2007 had first decided to divert the unused water to left and right bank of an existing canal system developed for two other dams over the Nira reservoir for five years. It was later extended for another five years.
The left bank of the canal carried the water to parts of Baramati, Indapur and Purandar, while the right bank catered to tehsils in Solapur and Satara.
Last June, the Fadnavis government had cut off the supply to the left bank, deciding to move the entire excess supply, through lift irrigation, to the right bank, which had triggered a political clash between NCP and BJP.
With the NCP now incharge of the water resources department, it is set to overturn the 2019 decision. Arguing that the plan to lift the dam water towards the right bank was technically cumbersome and will also impact flow irrigation, MKVDC has now proposed that proportionate allocation of water for areas along the left and the right bank of the canal.
Accordingly, the left bank, which caters to Baramati, Indapur and Purandar, will draw up to 55 per cent of the unutilised water, while the right bank will now get only 45 per cent. The same sectoral allocation formula has also been proposed for another dam (Gunjawani) in the region, which has 3.69 TMC water available.
The arrangement is proposed to be continued till the distribution systems of both the dams are operationalised. In an official communication, the water resources department has cited fund paucity and land acquisition challenges to argue that the completion of these distribution networks may still take a long while.
Collectively, about 9.347 TMC of excess water from the two dams is proposed to be diverted, with the left bank drawing 5.166 TMC, which would result in additional irrigation for 37,070 hectare farm land.
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