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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Pune: BJP minister says won’t allow pipeline project, party’s Pimpri unit differs

“We have opposed the project for the past eight years. The farmers in Maval will not allow the project to be implemented,” Bhegde, who is the MLA from Maval Assembly constituency, told The Indian Express.

Written by MANOJ MORE | Pune | Published: August 9, 2019 2:29:26 pm
Pune, Pune BJP, Pimpri pipeline project, Pune pipeline project, pune news, bjp leader, Pune bjp leader, indian express Bala Bhegde; (left) BJP says it is making all efforts to restart the Pavana pipeline project. (Photo: File)

On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the Maval firing incident, in which three farmers were killed, Minister of State for Labour, Environment, Relief and Rehabilitation Bala Bhegde on Thursday said farmers won’t allow the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC)’s Rs 400-crore Pavana pipeline project to be implemented. The Pimpri-Chinchwad unit of the BJP said the project will “certainly happen”.

“We have opposed the project for the past eight years. The farmers in Maval will not allow the project to be implemented,” Bhegde, who is the MLA from Maval Assembly constituency, told The Indian Express.

Bhegde, who has been agitating with farmers on this issue along with the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, had retained his Maval seat in the 2014 elections on promises of never allowing the project’s implementation.

On August 9, 2011, three farmers were killed after police opened fire on a group that was protesting against the pipeline project. After the incident, the state government had immediately halted the project. On Friday — the eighth anniversary of the incident — farmers will hold an event to commemmorate those killed.

The Rs 400-crore project involves lifting water directly through a closed pipeline from Pavana dam, located at least 35 km from Pimpri-Chinchwad. The pipeline will run up to Ravet in Pimpri-Chinchwad. The project will help the PCMC get 1 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) more water.

Last month, the contractor who was appointed to implement the project had withdrawn from it as the project remained stalled.

Bhegde claimed if the project is implemented, it will ruin the economy of the region.

“People from Talegaon and Dehu Road area are heavily dependent on dam water. There are 70 villages and two MIDCs with hundreds of small, medium and big industrial units. People’s livelihood depends on farm yield, which will be severely affected if the ground water level goes down and wells and lakes run dry. Farm land of at least 18,000 acres will be affected. Besides, the rural areas in Maval are becoming rapidly urbanised, which means there will be need for additional water,” he said.

“The issue had gone before the Bombay High Court, which referred the matter to the Water Resources Authority,” he added. The Water Resources Authority, Bhegde said, had ruled that PCMC can lift water from the closed pipeline for eight months in a year and should lift water from the river during the four monsoon months.

He added that farmers in the region had rejected this ruling, and instead, they suggested that the PCMC should build a weir at Gahunje in Maval and lift water from there.

“The PCMC has not responded to our suggestion,” said Bhegde.

The minister said the PCMC was getting 6.5 TMC water from Pavana dam, leaving just 3.5 TMC for Maval. “Due to the growing population and urbanisation of the area and considering our requirement till 2050, we believe the water stock for us is highly insufficient and so, PCMC’s project is not acceptable to us,” he said.

BJP, which rules the PCMC, said it was making all efforts to restart the project. “We are fully confident the project will happen,” said BJP general secretary Sarang Kamtekar. He said they have asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to intervene in the matter.

“This is because the issue has become complicated and cannot be resolved at the local level. An amicable solution has to be found to this and it can be found only at the highest level,” said Kamtekar.

Blaming the NCP for complicating the issue in 2011, Kamtekar said the NCP had tried to acquire land for the closed pipeline project without taking the farmers into confidence.

“They tried to bulldoze the project through the farms of Maval residents. This angered the farmers, who then took to the streets,” he said.

Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said the project will ensure additional one TMC of water for the city.

“It will help provide clean water to the city and we will be able to cater to the tail-end areas, which are water-deficient,” he said.

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