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Addressing water woes

Massive water cuts, receding water tables, pilferage of water, leakages in pipelines… water crisis in Maharashtra was never as acute as it has been in the last two years.

Milind Deora, MP, South Mumbai, who has been actively working towards finding a solution to Mumbai’s water crisis since a few years, told CIJ, “Water Desalination Project, Chennai, is close to my heart and I am working towards starting a project on similar lines in Mumbai. It will considerably ease Mumbai’s water woes. The two 100MLD Chennai projects at Nemmeli and Minjur – would desalinate sea water and augment water supply. These are on DBOOT (Design, Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) basis which is what I want to replicate in Mumbai.”

The desalination technology, is an expensive technology – about Rs100 crore for a 10 million litre water plant. A new technology for Mumbai, it will be tried on a pilot basis if the plant gets under way. It must be noted that despite an average need of 4,300MLD water, the civic body is able to meet the demand of only 3,400MLD of Mumbai’s 20 million inhabitants at present. The Union government’s ambitious plan of transforming Mumbai into a financial hub may go awry if the basic necessity like supply of adequate drinking water to the city’s teeming population is not adhered to by the local administration, said Deora

Proposed in the late 1990s for additional water, the Middle Vaitarna project could be a remedy to Mumbai’s water woes. Once implemented, it could bring 455 million litres of water to the city per day. “Under the JNNURM, our state has more than 80 projects – the maximum in the country. Mumbai has six projects under the scheme.”

The Vaitarna dam will be constructed at Mokhada in Thane district at a height of 105m, about 145km northeast of Mumbai. It will also generate about seven mega watt power on a continuous basis or 35MW on a peak hour basis. BMC-appointed Tata Consultancy Engineers Ltd (TCE) has stated in its report that the project will generate around 60 million units of power per year. The work has been completed about 30%. The laying of pipelines, constructing tunnels and the main dam will go well into the next year for completion.

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM)’s share of the cost is 50% (i.e. Rs664.75 crore) while the State government’s share (15%) is Rs199.43 crore and that of Government of India, under JNNURM (35%) is Rs465.32 crore.

Mumbai’s major water treatment plants are at Bhandup with a capacity of 1910MLD, Panjarpur (1365MLD) and Vihar plus Tulsi (90MLD). The major pumping stations are at Pise, Panjarapur, Bhandup and Raoli. Master Balancing Reservoirs are at Yewai and Bhandup with 26 service reservoirs. The main sources of water supply for Mumbai are Vaitarna (Upper Vaitarna, Lower Vaitarna, Middle Vaitarna, Pinjal and Gargai), Bhatsa and Ulhas (Kalu and Shai).

The government of Maharashtra had appointed an expert committee under the chairmanship of former secretary of irrigation department, Dr M A Chitale, in 1993 for advice on the long term planning for augmentation of water supply to Mumbai. The recommendations were the development of Middle Vaitarna (455MLD), Gargai (455MLD), Pinjal (865MLD) and Kalu (590MLD). Except Kalu which is in Ulhas basin, all the others are in the basin of Vaitarna. While the Middle Vaitarna project is under construction, the feasibility of the other projects is being scrutinised.

The Rs1200 crore funds from the Prime Minister for BrihanMumbai Storm Water Drainage project (BriMStoWarD) for curbing flooding will help the MCGM to increase water retention capacity of existing storm water drains. After the July 26, 2005, deluge a fact-finding committee had strongly recommended this measure “I took it up to have the funds approved for it. Our Storm Water Drain Network is very old and needs a complete overhauling. The Centre has already released Rs500 crore for it and another Rs500 crore will be released this year.”

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