A week after the Bombay High Court asked the state government to release as much water from other dams as possible to the parched Ujani dam that supplies water to Solapur district,the government informed the court that the water released from two dams would take about 40 days to reach it.
State governments counsel Sandip Shinde informed the court on Monday that water from two other dams Bhama Akshed located 280 km from Ujani and Andra that is 330 km away have been released to the dam. The water would take around 40 days to reach Ujani. Due to theft and evaporation,the amount of water that will finally reach Ujani will not be very significant, Shinde said.
The petitioner,however,contended that a person could walk from Mumbai to Solapur in 40 days.
The court asked the state government why it could not release water from the closer Khadakwasla dam instead. Shinde said it would not be possible as the basins and valleys were different.
The court also pulled up the state government for failing to appoint members to the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority. Noting that the chairman of the authority retired in 2011 and another member in 2012,the court said: Since then the posts have been lying vacant. This inaction on the part of the government is the reason behind this complication.
Shinde told the court that retired bureaucrat Ravi Budhiraja has been appointed as the chairman of the authority,and a member would be appointed within two weeks.
Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha,however,asked the government to appoint the member in one week and make the WRRA functional as soon as possible so that it could take necessary decision regarding the distribution of water.
Alleging that government authorities had failed in the implementation of equitable water distribution,Mohol Taluka Bahu Udeshiya Shetkari and Shankarrao Sathe had filed a petition in the HC. They had contended that the Ujani,also known as Bhima dam,is part of the Bhima irrigation project along the Bhima river tributary that covers 22 dams. The Ujani dam,the petitioners stated,is one of the biggest in the state and provides multiple benefits like irrigation,hydro-electricity,drinking and industrial water supply.
The authorities,the petitioners claimed,were informed that the water level in the dam had dipped owing to scanty rainfall,making the area drought-prone. The level of Ujani is minus 30 per cent and this dam specifically caters to Solapur district,which is facing a drought-like situation,the petitioners told the court.
Meanwhile,in Pune,Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said on Monday only around 1.75 TMC out of the total 4 TMC water being released from Bhama Akshed and Andra Valley dams was expected to reach Ujani dam due to evaporation and seepage losses.
Around 1,170 cusecs are being released from Bhama Akshed and 217 cusecs from Andra Valley dam daily, he said.
Earlier,advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams,Rivers and People (SANDRP) had sought to know how much water would actually reach the dam or the drought-affected people,anticipating evaporation and seepage. On earlier occasions,farmers have also drawn water en route.
Deshmukh said the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd had been asked to ensure no loadshedding in areas from where the water would pass to avoid unauthorised use by farmers.
After releasing water for Ujani dam,Deshmukh said,Bhama Akshed dam was holding 3.87 TMC water on Monday and Andra Valley dam had 1.73 TMC.
Highlighting the measures initiated to tackle drought in Pune division that includes Satara,Sangli,Solapur and Kolhapur districts along with Pune,Deshmukh said around Rs 177 crore had been spent on drought relief work till March end and the amount would go up to Rs 250 crore by the end of June.