SEVEN years after the firing incident in Maval area of Pune rocked the nation, the controversial water pipeline project has returned to rankle farmers who seem to be all geared up to oppose the project. The Rs 400 crore closed pipeline project that was recently cleared by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA), is being implemented by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. The project entails lifting water directly from the Pavana dam for eight months of the year.
On August 9, 2011, the project had come to a halt after three farmers were killed in police firing in Maval taluka of Pune district. That day, Shyamrao Tupe (29), Kantabai Thakar (40) and Moreshwar Sathe (49) died of bullet injuries after the Pune Rural Police opened fire at farmers protesting on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway near Baur village.
The then Chief Minister Prithivraj Chavan had given a stay on the project and protesting farmers had approached the MWRRA seeking its cancellation. The PCMC provided jobs to the kin of the deceased farmers. Akshay Sathe, son of Moreshwar Sathe; Hausabai Tupe, wife of Shyamrao Tupe; and Nitin Thakar, son of Kantabai Thakar are working with the civic body now.
Shankar Shelar, the president of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangh said they would launch an agitation to stop the PCMC from resuming work on the project. “We will not allow the project to restart at any cost.” Anand Chandrachud, the vice-president of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Pune district, said: “We reject the verdict given by the MWRRA. The authority has dismissed our plea to scrap the project, which is not acceptable to us.”
Chandrachud said they now have the option to approach the Bombay High Court. “Earlier, when we had approached the court, it had directed us to go to the MWRRA. Now, we will have to appeal against the MWRRA order in the High Court,” he said.
Elaborating on why they continue to oppose the project, Chandrachud said if the PCMC is allowed to draw water directly from Pavana dam, then 65 villages and Talegaon Water Supply Scheme, Wagholi Water Supply Scheme, Talegaon Tow, Talegaon MIDC, Dehu Road Cantonment Board area and Hinjewadi areas, which are heavily dependent on the dam water, would be hit. Pavana dam, he says, has a capacity of 10 thousand million cubic feet (TMC). “Of this, the PCMC will take away 6 TMC. One TMC will disappear due to evaporation and percolation. Then how will people from the 65 villages, towns, MIDC areas and those dependent on water supply schemes survive?” Chandrachud asked.
Besides the issue of availability of water for drinking purposes and irrigation, Chandrachud said: “If water is lifted by a direct pipeline then nothing will go into Pavana river, which will turn to a gutter as sewage water from 65 villages, towns and MIDC areas would be let off into it. Not just sewage, even industrial effluent will make it to the river. This means, wells and borewells will run dry and plants and animals that are the mainstay of Maval area will have to go without water,” he said.
On its part, the PCMC contends that the irrigation department directed it to draw the required 480 million litres daily (MLD) directly from the Pavana dam. “It is one of the conditions put by the irrigation department while allotting the quota for us. The irrigation department, it believes, will help save water from transportation and evaporation losses,” said PCMC Deputy Executive Engineer Ramdas Tambe.
The civic officials said lifting water directly through a closed pipeline is part of the state government’s policy to supply water. Based on the water saved through the closed pipeline, the PCMC believes that the irrigation department will increase the quota in future. The civic officials said as per their information, the farmers in Maval are allotted 1.13 TMC water from the Pavana dam. “However, they are not even lifting half the water allotted to them. Besides, the 3 TMC water, as per our information, from the irrigation department is adequate for 65 villages and other areas,” Tambe. said.
PCMC officials said drawing 480 MLD of water directly from the Pavana river would not be sufficient for a projected population of 29 lakh in the next 10 years. “Today, the population in PCMC area stands at around 20 lakh. In the next 10 years as the population rises, we will need additional stock of water. Also, we are planning to implement a 24X7 water plan for the entire Pimpri-Chinchwad area. The Pavana water pipeline project is one of the steps to augment the supply. We are aiming to provide clean water through a closed water pipeline project,” an official said.