Pune City Police has decided to deploy two squads of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and cordon off the Bhama Askhed dam when the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) restarts work on a project to draw water from the dam and supply it to the eastern parts of Pune. The move comes after protesters threatened to commit suicide by jumping into the dam water if the civic body started work on the stalled project.
“The PMC is ready with all the necessary manpower, equipment and raw material to restart the project to draw water from the dam… Police have agreed to provide protection at the site of work… they have also decided to deploy SRPF personnel to cordon off the dam,” said PMC Commissioner Saurabh Rao.
He said the protesters were continuing their agitation even though the civic body had met most of their demands.
Instead of the monetary compensation offered by the civic body, the protesting villagers have been demanding equal amount of land in return of the land they have lost for the project. They have also demanded that the pipeline which will be constructed for the project must supply water to their villages as well.
“The protesters had declared that they would drown themselves in the dam water if the PMC restarts the project work. The police have taken this seriously and sought assistance from SRPF personnel to cordon off the dam. The SRPF personnel will be deployed by Friday, so the PMC is hopeful of restarting the work immediately,” said Rao. Police have also decided to file cases against those obstructing the PMC project.
The project has been delayed by years — it was started in 2014 but was stalled due to protests by local villagers — and the civic body has missed both the original deadline for its completion, July 2017, as well as the extension granted to it till March 2019.
The PMC plans to build a 42-km-long pipeline, which will carry water from the dam and pass through various villages, before reaching Pune and supplying water to the eastern parts of the city. The project, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, also includes plans to construct a water treatment plant and pumping station. It is aimed at meeting the requirement of residents of Kalas, Sangamwadi, Yerawada, Lohegaon, Dhanori, Vadgaonsheri and Kharadi on Nagar Road.
The project was estimated to cost Rs 380 core but the delay has escalated the cost to Rs 600 crore.