Some areas in Pune experienced water shortage on Thursday a day after the Irrigation Department, without any prior notice, discontinued part of the water supply to the city on Wednesday. “The Irrigation Department discontinued part of the supply to the city without informing the Pune Municipal Corporation. Because of this, less water was available and water supply was not sufficient on Thursday,” said Mayor Mukta Tilak.
Assuring that water supply in the affected areas will return to normal by Friday, the mayor said she had taken up the issue with the state Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, as well as Guardian Minister Ganesh Bapat. “I have complained about the action by Irrigation Department officials to the state government. I have sought action against them, while also seeking immediate restoration of water supply… there should not be any problem on Friday,” she said.
The Irrigation Department, however, said it had initiated the action as per a decision taken in a recent meeting of the Canal Committee, which was convened by the irrigation minister. “The department switched off two of the pumps located in Khadakwasla dam area, after the meter indicated that 1,250 MLD had been drawn by the civic body for the day. This was done in the presence of local police,” said department officials.
The PMC and the Irrigation Department have been bickering over the amount of water the civic body can draw per day. Department officials claimed that the PMC had drawn 1,750 MLD (Millions of Litres per Day) water on Tuesday, far more than the allowed quota of 1,250 MLD, despite specific directions to the civic body to reduce the consumption of water.
The canal committee had urged the civic body to slash its water use to 1,150 MLD, but the PMC urged the Irrigation Department to allow it to draw 1,350 MLD water till Diwali, to fulfil the increasing demand of city residents during the festive season.
V G Kulkarni, head of the PMC’s water supply department, said the Irrigation Department’s claims about the municipal corporation drawing excess water were wrong. “The PMC has been drawing 1,350 MLD water every day and there has not been any increase in the amount,” he said.
BJP leader Srinath Bhimale said the civic body would continue to draw 1,350 MLD every day to meet the city’s demands. “We will manage the water quota after the PMC goes back to drawing 1,150 MLD,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the opposition NCP staged an agitation at the entrance of the civic headquarters to protest against the Irrigation Department’s decision to stop part of the supply to the city without informing the civic body, and the “failure” of the ruling BJP to ensure sufficient supply to local residents.
“If the water supply in the most affected areas of Solapur Road and Nagar Road is not restored completely, the agitation will be intensified,” said city NCP chief Chetan Tupe.
Shiv Sena members also registered their protest against the suffering of local residents due to the water shortage.
As per an earlier agreement between the PMC and the Irrigation Department, the civic body was allowed to draw 11.5 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) from the reservoir in a year, and could seek permission to draw an additional 10 per cent to meet increasing demand.
However, in October 2017, factoring in the population of the city and per capita water supply, the Irrigation Department had fixed a quota of 8.16 TMC for PMC. The civic body had opposed the Irrigation Department’s decision as, it said, the PMC supplies water to the two cantonment boards, hospitals, schools, Air Force establishments, Railway establishments, and villages around the city.
The PMC had sought an increase in water supply to meet the rising demand and it currently draws 17 TMC water in a year.
The Irrigation Department had also sought dues from water charges, worth Rs 152 crore, so the civic administration has proposed that it will divert Rs 65 crore from its river restoration project to pay the first installment to repay the department.