Mumbai's water supply earns rural ire

Villagers threaten to cut off water supply to Mumbai

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Thursday 15 June 2006

people from about 104 villages of Thane district near Mumbai have threatened to break valves of the pipeline supplying water to the metropolis and bring the city's water supply to a halt. The reason: all their water sources have been completely diverted to Mumbai and they are facing acute drinking water and irrigation crisis.

The villages are located in Shahpur taluka, about 100 km from Mumbai. Recently, over 5,000 enraged villagers gheraoed officials of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (mcgm) at the Tansa reservoir site and met the district collector; but all in vain. Since 2001, these villagers -- mostly tribals and the local kunbi people -- have staged four massive agitations. The state government has refused to intervene in the matter.

The villagers' resentment actually dates back to more than 100 years, when the British had constructed a dam on the Tansa lake to supply water to Mumbai. (Tansa and Bhatsai lakes are the prime source of water to villages in Shahpur taluka and Bhiwandi taluka.) Ever since, either new dams have been constructed on these water sources or their existing capacity increased (see table: Mumbai's growing thirst) to meet the growing water demand of Mumbai. The fallout is that the villagers have been losing their lands to these dams even as their farms got increasingly parched. "By now, at least 20 villages have already lost their land to the Tansa dam and other 84 villages to the laying of water pipelines," says Vishwanath Patil, president of the kunbi Sena, a local group seeking justice on the issue. On the contrary, mcgm demands Rs 10,000 per water connection (earlier Rs 1 lakh) to their households. Now both the Shahpur and Bhiwandi talukas are facing an acute water crisis. But neither the state administration nor mcgm are bothered. But Mumbai's water scenario sees no improvement and the water supply falls short by 1,000 million litres per day (mld). mcgm is working on other projects like the Middle Vaitarna Scheme, to increase the water supply to 6,282 mld by 2021. But Shahpur villagers are adamant not to allow these new projects of mcgm to go ahead; not till their water needs are addressed.

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