NEARLY 20 lakh residents of Pimpri-Chinchwad have been deprived of clean drinking water as a major project — a pipeline to bring water all the way from Pavana dam to Pimpri-Chinchwad — has been stalled since 2011.
The project came to a halt after three farmers, part of a group from Maval taluka which was protesting against the project, were killed in police firing.
In the wake of the violence, the state government had stopped work on the 36-km pipeline, which was meant to bring water directly from the dam through a closed pipeline. The farmers were protesting as they feared that the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) would divert the water they needed for agricultural and drinking purposes.
The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, which is in power in the state as well as the local civic body, and the NCP, which was in power in an alliance government with the Congress when the project was stalled, have blamed each other over the issue. Once estimated to cost Rs 400 crore, the project cost has now escalated to Rs 600 crore.
The issue was first taken up by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, which gave conditional approval to the PCMC to restart the work in 2012. But the state government refused to approve it as farmers led by the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh were still protesting the project. The issue finally reached the Bombay High Court, which appointed a committee to look into it.
Sena MP Shrirang Barne, who is contesting from the Maval Lok Sabha seat again this year, said he had written a letter to the state government twice and asked District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat to take the initiative to resolve the issue. “I am sure in the future, the government will take decisive action to reach a consensus on the issue,” he said.
Accusing the NCP of being responsible for the death of three farmers, Barne said, “Besides being responsible for the death of farmers, the NCP should also be blamed as it failed to initiate the project by taking farmers into confidence and acquiring the land in a proper manner,” he said.
The issue, said Barne, had become an emotional one. “There was a need to take all stakeholders — farmers, local residents and the representatives of farmer organisations — into confidence. The state government should take the initiative to resolve the issue,” he said.
The Sena leader said the committee appointed by the High Court has already recommended that the PCMC should be allowed to lift water from Pavana dam for eight months in a year, and from a weir, to be constructed on Pavana river, for the remaining four months. “This should hopefully solve the problem,” he said.
BJP general secretary Sarang Kamtekar said the issue had remained unresolved as the farmers were demanding adequate compensation. They were also apprehensive that once the project was implemented, the Pavana river would turn into a nullah and their wells would run dry.
“There is no consensus on the issue. The BJP’s Maval unit holds a certain view and the BJP unit in Pimpri-Chinchwad has a different view. There is a need for consensus on the issue. And that’s why the problem with the pipeline project hasn’t been resolved,” said Kamtekar.
NCP leader Yogesh Behl, however, blamed the state government for the stalled project, pointing out that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had been in power for five years but failed to resolve the issue. “Residents of Pimpri-Chinchwad and even Maval did not get clean drinking water because the BJP and Shiv Sena kept fighting among themselves instead of giving priority to public issues,” he said.
Behl said the BJP and Sena had failed to do anything to push water projects in Pimpri-Chinchwad. “The Maval pipeline project is one of those. They have failed to come up with a roadmap regarding future water requirements of the town and a tentative plan to deal with it.”