City-based social activist Prafull Shivrao Kadam alleged at a press conference on Friday that Tata Power, under an agreement made by the firm with the British Government prior to Independence, is in possession of 48.97 TMC water in six dams in the Western Ghats. The water, he alleged, is being used by the group to produce hydroelectricity, which is sold to Mumbai. “In a situation like this, the group should ideally give away the rights on the dams and instead release water for drought-prone areas,” he said.
Kadam has also sent a proposal to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in which he made nine demands and stated that if the demands are not met till April 30, then he, along with representatives of the drought-affected areas, would take out a protest march.
Kadam’s letter alleges that Tata Power had constructed six dams before independence in Lonavala, Valvan, Thokarwadi, Shiravta, Somwadi and Mulshi by signing a lease with the British Government. “The company has used the water without paying any royalties to the government. The company established hydroelectric power plants in Khopoli, Bhivpuri and Bhira. The power generated by these projects is sold to the 4.5 lakh population of Mumbai for the past 100 years,” he alleged.
When Tata Power was reached for a comment, the company spokesperson issued a statement that said, “Tata Power lakes cater to various requirements like drinking water (for villages around the lakes, Kusgaon and Karla drinking water schemes, Lonavala and Khopoli towns, parts of Ulhasnagar, Badlapur suburbs and villages along the Patalganga river), irrigation requirements in Karjat, Kolad, Roha, Mulshi and Paud areas and industrial requirements in Patalganga, Rasayani, Roha and Badlapur. These lakes were established by founders more than 100 years back for supplying power to the commercial capital of Mumbai. Over the years, the lakes have become multipurpose in addition to fulfilling the main purpose of supplying peak power to Mumbai city. In this drought year, Tata Power officials are in touch with irrigation officials from Pune and Raigad districts to decide the water usage pattern considering all the stake holders, impacted areas and power generation requirement. Tata Power has always responded proactively to the community needs during natural calamities like post flood situation in Pune after the Panshet dam burst in 1961, floods in Maharashtra during 2005-06, floods in Kashmir, earthquake in Nepal and cyclone in Orissa. We are equally sensitive towards the current drought situation in Maharashtra.”
Some of the nine demands made by Kadam in his letter to the CM include: the authenticity and validity of Tata’s lease papers should be checked by experts in the field of law and a board of experienced bureaucrats; ordering the state government’s power department to prepare a scheme for generation of 500 MW power by using non-conventional methods; proper and optimum use of water from Tata’s dam and issuing orders to the state government’s water supply and water resources departments to prepare a scheme regarding the same; advising the water resource department to redirect excess water to drought-affected areas; to take into account that even Tata Group does not face any loss and start a discussion regarding the same by taking the state government’s intelligentsia and experts in the field.