RESIDENTS OF Pimpri-Chinchwad industrial city are facing the worst water crisis in years. Since last week, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation has begun supplying water on alternate days to the entire city, leaving residents in cooperative housing societies and chawls in a lurch.
In some housing societies, residents claim, the water pressure is extremely low, while supply lasts only for around five to 10 minutes. With water scarce, tankers are back on the roads to meet the needs of the city.
Single source of water supply for ever-expanding city
The population of Pimpri-Chinchwad is currently estimated between 22 and 25 lakh. With rapid influx of people from states like Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and also the drought-hit Marathwada region to the city in search of jobs and livelihood, the population of Pimpri-Chinchwad is growing at a much faster rate.
Along with population explosion, construction activity has also picked up pace here over the last few years. However, the Pavana dam, with a capacity of 9.5 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) continues to be the only source of water for the industrial city. The dam, located around 40 km from Pimpri-Chinchwad, currently has 29 per cent water stock, which is not enough to cater to the drinking water needs of city till June end.
It was the depleting stock in the dam that forced the PCMC to initiate the water cuts in the city, especially after the irrigation department directed the civic body to lift less water from the Pavana river. The dam water travels up to Ravet weir in Pimpri-Chinchwad from where the PCMC lifts water, purifies it at its plant and then supplies to the industrial city.
“We used to draw 480 MLD (millions of litres per day) water from Pavana river before the irrigation department asked us to cut it down to 420 MLD,” PCMC joint engineer Makrand Nikam said.
The PCMC says the problem of water supply crisis has arisen because there was hardly any rain during withdrawal phase of the monsoon last year. “Rain during withdrawal phase of monsoon helps us get one months’ extra water. Since there was poor rain during the withdrawal phase, the city is suffering now in May,” Nikam said.
30-40% water wasted due to leaks in pipes
Leakage in pipelines has compounded the problem for residents, says PCMC joint engineer. “We supply all the water we lift — around 420 MLD. But since there is 30-40 per cent leakage, residents struggle to get enough water,” Nikam said. He added that the civic body is trying to get the old water pipelines replaced under the Amrut Yojana.
“There is lot of water wastage, which prevents everyone from getting their stock of water. The PCMC should make it mandatory for every flat owner to install water meters, which will also help to monitor water usage. Currently, one meter system per apartment is the norm,” William Naidu, a local activist, said.
Rs 400-crore project stuck since 2011
Activists Manav Kamble and Maruti Bhapkar have blamed the BJP-led PCMC for the water crisis in the city. They claimed that the civic authority was neither trying to strengthen water sources nor tapping newer sources of supply.
Referring to the Rs 400-crore Pavana pipeline, the work for which came to a halt in 2011 after three protesting farmers were killed in police firing, Bhapkar said: “Despite the fact that the BJP is at the helm in the PCMC, and all local MPs and MLAs belonged to BJP and its ally Shiv Sena, the party has failed to resolve the controversy over the pipeline work. And therefore, Pimpri-Chinchwad residents continue to be deprived of adequate water. This shows how serious the ruling party has been in taking up the crucial drinking water problem of Pimpri-Chinchwad.”
The PCMC authorities, however, say that they have been taking steps to augment the water supply system. “We have been sanctioned 267 MLD water from Andra and Bhama Askhed dams by the irrigation department. This will be enough to cater to the population for at least 15 years,” an official said.
However, work on lifting of water from the two dams is likely to take at least two-three years. The PCMC has planned to lift water directly from the two dams through a closed pipeline. “Tenders for lifting water from Andra dam have been published. As for Bhama Askhed dam, we are waiting for a protest (over the issue) there to subside,” Nikam said.
BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap conceded that water problem will get worse in the city if strong steps were not taken.
The legislator said that he has proposed the idea of exploring the possibility of building a number of lower-capacity dams to cater to different parts of the industrial town.
“At least for a few months when water in Pavana dam declines, such dams can come in handy,” he said, agreeing that there was pressing need to tap newer sources of water and to augment the drinking water system to take care of the future needs.
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