Noting that natural resources such as water isthe property of the nation and not of any individual or company, the Bombay High Court Tuesday asked the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) to examine if water in dams controlled by private individuals or companies can be made available for drinking purposes until the water scarcity ends.
With the tenure of the members and chairman of the MWRRA having ended, the court said that as an important regulatory authority is no longer in existence, the state must either constitute a new authority within a week or allow the outgoing authority to continue to function.
“We are of the view that the state is already reeling under severe drought situation. Non-existence of an important regulatory authority will add to the problem,” said Justice B R Gavai, while referring to the water shortage as a “dark situation.”
A vacation bench comprising Justice B R Gavai and Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi were hearing several petitions which raised the issue of water scarcity in the state and the need to provide priority to drinking water.
The court also held that “for ensuring equitable distribution of water to all regions the water authority must exist.” Acting Advocate General Rohit Deo informed the court that amendment to ensure constitution of the authority was in process.
Advocate Harish Pandya, appearing for one of the petitioners, informed the court that water from various dams and borewells, owned by private parties, is still being used for industrial purposes.
The judge also directed Collectors in drought-affected districts to requisition private borewells and wells and use the water for drinking purposes.
Referring to an old court direction, where the state was was asked to release water from Ujani Dam to Jayakwadi Dam, the state said the level of water in Ujani Dam has also fallen and the required force for the water to travel was missing, and hence it is impossible to abide by the order. “We do not possess the expertise in the matter and will have to go with the view of experts,” replied the bench on the issue.
Meanwhile, the BMC has been asked to examine whether water supplied to slaughter houses can be rationed and the same can be diverted for drinking in Mumbai. “We direct collectors of drought-affected areas to ensure no water meant for drinking is used for construction. Further, the government should establish special wards in district hospitals to treat patients suffering due to heat wave,” observed the High Court.
The court also questioned a government resolution issued which sought relaxing quarterly inspection of untreated affluents being released into water bodies . Questioning the rationale behind such a GR, the court asked the government to explain the logic behind it while asking if it was willing to withdraw the GR. “Such a move will only add to pollution of water bodies and cause heath problems,” pointed the court.
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