A farmer who has been on a fast at Azad Maidan in Mumbai to get water from Pune dams released to Ujani dam in Solapur to provide relief to villages downstream reeling under drought has found some support from irrigation experts who believe his idea is not entirely non-feasible.
Although Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had passed derogatory remarks about the fast,the experts said releasing water from dams in Pune to Ujani and from there into canals could help alleviate water shortage in 40 villages along the canals.
The farmer,Prabhakar (Bhaiyya) Deshmukh ,who is from Solapur,has been fasting since February 5 for water to be released from Bhama Askhed and Khadakwasla dams to Ujani. On Tuesday,he and other farmers tried to stage a protest in front of CM Prithviraj Chavan’s official residence. He was detained,taken to the nearerst police station and released.
Located in Maadha taluka of Solapur,Ujani is the terminal dam in the Bhima basin and the major source of drinking and irrigation water for Solapur and other regions of Western Maharashtra. Other than cities,the tributary system of Ujani supports many villages that depend on it for recharging wells and meeting irrigation needs.
The rainfall deficit and drought this year has almost dried up Ujani,stopping supply to Solapur,Pandharpur and neighbouring areas. As many as 85 wells along the right and left canals of Ujani have run dry making life miserable for villagers, said Kishore Godse,a farmer supporting Deshmukh.
In light of the situation,Deshmukh has been demanding that water be released to Ujani dam,and subsequently to canals.
Deshmukh’s demand,irrigation officials point out,is “not entirely non-feasible.”
Located around 40 km from Pune,Bhama Askhed as of April 8 is 57% full while Khadakwasla is 59% full,according to the official website of the water resources department of government of Maharashtra. Part of the 16 dams in Bhima sub-basin,both dams were constructed for meeting drinking water and irrigation needs of Pune and adjoining regions.
However,over the years,these two dams have been catering to water needs of Pune region,with hardly any being released to Ujani. A canal system for transporting water from these two dams to Ujani,according to the irrigation department,does exist. At present,water from Khadakwasla is released to Daund,Indapur and Haveli area through a 140-km network of canals for cultivation,which officials said consists of mainly sugarcane besides some diary farms.
Considering the severe drought in Solapur and regions of Western Maharashtra,irrigation experts said recharging Ujani by releasing water from Bhima sub basin region is a feasible idea. Around 3 TMC of water,if released,along the Mutha would reach Ujani in three days and recharge the wells and provide succour to cities like Solapur and Pandharpur, said activist Vivek Velankar.
In order to stop water theft,it has been suggested that electricity connection of villages along Mutha river be snapped for three days,which was done when water was released for Ahmednagar from Kukurdi dam earlier this year.
The main impediment to this plan,according to a senior irrigation officials who wished that he be not quoted,is the powerful sugarcane lobby. At least four sugarcane factories are along the river in Pune,so the water,instead of reaching Ujani,could be diverted to areas in Indapur,Haveli and Daund.