Bhima Water Crisis: Genesis and Way forward

Introduction Two weeks back I visited these farmers protesting at Azad Maidan and requesting for water to be released to canals (Right and Left Bank Canals of Ujani dam) for the Solapur district for their drinking water needs. They (there were women too)  represent Solapur Jilha Janahit Shetakari Sangathana (SJJSS). The man with prominent injury in the center is their leader Mr. Prabhakar (bhaiya) Deshmukh, who was publicly mocked at by no other than Maharashtra Dy. CM, Ajit Pawar on April 7, 2013 in absolute tasteless language. There can be different views over effectiveness of releasing the water from canals for drinking water needs in Solapur villages. Nonetheless, the public sentiments cannot be ridiculed by any one, leave aside the Dy. CM. Particularly when the Maharashtra government has some real options to solve the problems raised by Prabhakar Deshkukh.


Solapur farmers on satyagarha in Mumbai for drinking water for two months Photo- SANDRP

Analysis Ujani dam, the biggest dam on Bhima River (Bhima river meets Krishna river in downstream Karnataka near Raichur), which supplies water to Solapur district, does not have any water left in its live storage – in fact, the attached graph shows that the level has gone in negative, which means the water level has gone below its live water storage capacity- in such case, judicious water consumption should have been the norm. It should have been adopted once it was confirmed by Aug 2012 that the area will be facing drought this year. Strict ban on sugar cane crushing, sugar cane plantation, effective water recycling, stopping westward water diversions from Bhima river, etc. are some of these options, none of which the administrators have perused with any seriousness.

Bhima before it reaches Solapur It is important to study the upstream situation of Mula, Mutha, Pavana and Bhima rivers before it flows down to Ujani dam. This first leads us to west-ward transfers of water from drought affected Bhima river basin to high rainfall (3000 mm or more annually) Konkan region for power generation. The attached maps depict this westward diversion projects. For hydro power generation, Tata Power transfers the water from these rivers across the Western Ghats through underground water tunnels, to the western side i.e. Konkan region which actually receives surplus rainfall. Such projects are highlighted in the Maps obtained from Water Resources Information System (WRIS). The six water reservoirs (Mulshi, Thokewadi, Shirawatha, Walwan, Lonavvala and Kundali), parts of the three Tata hydropower projects (150 MW Bhira, 72 MW Bivpuri and 72 MW Khopoli) could be seen on the eastern side of the dotted line which is Western Ghats ridge line.


Figure 1– Bhira Power Project

Considering the fact that the downstream basin is reeling under severe drought, one must critically evaluate the question whether millions of cubic meters of water should be allowed to flow west into Konkan region.


Figure 2- Khopoli Power Project        


Figure 3-Bhipuri Power Project

Water supply in Pune district Pune is intersected by rivers Mula, Mutha, and Pawana which are tributaries of Bhima. In Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad region, there are 5 major dams which control the river flow downstream viz. Temghar, Panshet, Varasgaon, Khadakvasala and Pawana. There is Ujani dam in Solapur on Bhima River itself. It is indeed a cause of concern that the live storage in Ujani dam has reached in its negative capacity (-30%) when, upstream all these dams are showing quite healthy trend of water storage of their capacity. The following graph is compiled using the most recent available figures from Water Resources Department and Command Development Authority (CADA), Solapur.


It is clear that while Solapur is reeling under sever water crises, Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad metropolitan area have adequate water supply. This situation raises question on the equity of our water sharing practices; not just on inter-state but even also on inter-district ones! In fact a case has been filed in which Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority is a respondent, asking for water release from upstream dams  in Pune for Ujani Dam.  In Pune district, apart from annual draft of underground 1015 MCM out of available 1442 MCM water[1], a study[2] on Urban water distribution states that, PMC is supplying so much water today that it would be sufficient to sustain Pune’s projected population of 2050[3]. There is unevenness in the water distribution with lack of well-designed inter-city water supply coordination. The demand for water has reached 1,164 MLD for Pune city. Water for the city predominantly comes from Khadakvasala dam. On the other hand, large part of the over 1.7 million rural population in Pune district are supplied the drinking water from tankers in March 2013[4]. The government officials claim that the district has enough water storage in the four dams to supply 1.5 TMC water every month till mid-July[5].

Water pollution in Pune district Pune’s record of sewage treatment has been one of the most dismal ones in India, pronmpting even the erstwhile Env. Minister Jairam Ramesh to write a strong letter condemning the Municipal Corporation. Pune Municipal Corporation admits that there is still a gap of over 250 MLD of sewage which is left untreated out of total 700 MLD generated[6]. In case of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, the administration claims that there is about 50 MLD of sewage still being discharged into river untreated[7]. Experts believe that these figures are entirely misleading. Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad effectively do not treat even 25% of their sewage. Though Pune is required to do so, it does not return a single drop of recycled water into Khadakwasla Left Bank or Right Bank Canals for downstream usage. Pollution Control Board had filed a case against Pune Municipal Corporation in this regard, without any positive outcomes. Out of 30 stations across Maharashtra assessed by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board for exceptionally poor Water Quality Indices, a whopping 18 stations lie in Pune.  The picture becomes even grimmer considering the fact that there are 25% of the population who are not connected by established sewage carrying mechanisms[8]. DO of Mula Mutha is routinely near zero is Pune and BOD and COD are extremely high. Even after building more than 6 sewage treatment plants, the condition has not improved.

Sugar mills and sugarcane cultivation Sugar factories also consume huge quantity of water and deliver surplus pollutants in the river. CPCB newsletter Parivesh confirms that sugar factories consume around 1,500- 2,000 liter of water and produce about 1,000 liters of sewage for every ton of sugarcane that they crush[9]. As on 28th February 2013, there are 27 operational cooperative sugar factories in Pune and Solapur combined[10] with total crushing capacity of 83750 tons/day. In addition, in the same region, according to government records, there are 19 private sugar factories[11]. It is not clear whether any of these  follow the rule of not establishing a sugar mill in 15 km circumference from any other sugar mill. The staggering figure of daily crushing capacity of 173250 tons/day imparted by 55 sugar cane factories in Pune division (not to be confused with district), leaves us wondering how much of water pollution they would have been caused[12].  In fact people from Daund and Indapur have been protesting about pollution from Pune for the past few years. Moreover there is the issue of massive water consumption by the sugarcane farms that cater to these sugar mills. Even as some of us travelled in these districts in this drought year, we could see sugarcane fields on both sides of the road as we travel from Pune to Solapur, as far as the eye could see. The plantation of sugarcane even after the declaration of drought continued and there was no attempt to curb that by anyone. Nor was there any attempt to stop the functioning of the water mills even in drought. There is of course the larger question of appropriateness of sugarcane cultivation and allowing sugar mills in this drought prone area. We learn that the administration has already sanctioned 31 more sugar factories in Solapur district.

 Conclusion There is a huge disparity between water availability  in Pune and Solapur districts.

  1. There is no effective machinery to ensure judicious inter-district water sharing.
  2. In the wake of severe drought also, we continue to divert our water to water surplus basins from water deficit Bhima basin
  3. Whatever water is left in the basin, Pune district degrades it, leaving the people downstream in Solapur demanding clean water in addition to their demand for supply of water in the first place[13].
  4. The addiction to sugarcane cultivation and sugar mills is very high even in the drought hit areas. In fact at least the crushing in Pune and Solapur districts should have been stopped right in October when it became clear that the state is going to face drought.

These conclusions also tell us that Dy. CM has a lot of options to work on instead of what he suggested in Indapur on 7th April 2013. The demand for water by Prabhakar Deshmukh and his organization cannot be brushed aside and certainly not in the fashion that Mr. Ajit Pawar did. In stead, he could have immediately directed stopping of westward diversion of water from the six Tata dams so that the water instead flows to the Ujani dam, which can than be used for providing water to the drought hit villages.

Damodar Pujari (damodar.sandrp@gmail.com)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)

[2] From Centre for Science and Environment

6 thoughts on “Bhima Water Crisis: Genesis and Way forward

  1. Dear Sir,

    It is true that hydroelectricity is lavish use of water for droughtprone region like Western Maharashtra. Myself from South Solapur and I know how people are struggling for drinking water.

    So I request all our political leaders/State Administrators to stop use of water for hydroelectricity and use Nuclear power for electricity generation.

    You have very well explained the same pictorially. Similar thoughts were in my mind when I see Tata/Koyana Dams.

    Warm Regards,

    Dharma Patil


  2. Dear Sir,

    You are explained it very well. And the problem this year 2015-16 is going to be worst than 2013.

    Now for Year 2015-16:
    We need to stop all the water flowing to Konkan for Power Generation at least this year. Stop Sugarcane production in Bhima Basin.

    In Future:
    Rather I am thinking we need to lift the Water from Kokan towards Nira, Bhima & Sina rivers. Not sure how much dose it take to lift water this high.

    Can we build a new dam at the base of Raigad fort’s east side on Kal river and lift water from there to Panshet & Gunjavni dams to help Usmanabad & Solapur districts.

    Somewhere on internet I read, if we use 1% of India’s land for solar power generation, we can generate 500 times of electricity we need today. If True then, I guess Modiji is pushing at right direction.

    Additionally can we cover part of Ujjani & Jayakwadi [Not so deep water dams] with solar panels to generate power and minimize vaporization. It will cost about same or less to build such power plants compared to using good farms for solar plants.

    Thank you
    Abhijit Shetye.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Abhijit,

      7-8 years back there was talk going when Vilasrao was CM. To bring Koyana Water to Dhom, Bhataghar and then to Panshet. Later this will be supplied to Beed, Osmanabad, Solapur. And way on to eastern sid of satara,Nira,man, baramati etc.

      I feel this is possible. With this kind of arrangement atleast Western Maharstra can be free from droughts. Every person from every village also propose scheme to make local lake in village or between village. Same should be a case between farmers and individual level. This will also make less requirement of on Ujani water.

      One more point I have in my mind to put water meter on each Bore well which make our area drought prone. If any one uses bore water more than limit needs to be charged.

      Excessive sugarcane cultivation is causing this problem. In old days (I mean 30 years back) having grain at our home piled in bags was counted as richness but today grain is immediately sold to make money or only sugar cane is grown at our farms.

      We are not doing balanced farming that is we are not growing Karadi, Jwar, rice, vegetables etc.

      Yes solar energy and drip irrigation will be answer to solve our problems at our hands.

      Interlinking Dams, Rivers, River Basins by big pipes, cannals, tunnels is government job. Our political leaders should talk on this.

      Wating our water in electricity generation we should regulate.

      Warm Regards,

      Dharma Patil


  3. Dear Sir,
    This article contains many maps from India-WRIS WebGIS project. Please include the web reference at the end of the article.



  4. Its a matter of fact that the wrath of people cannot be answered until some promising solution is in hand. Looking to the financial constrains and land acquisition scenario specifically mandate to have 70% consents and 5 times cost the feadibility and time involved for implimintation are in question.. we have a technological concept which retards evaporation upto 80% from the dam and enhances the availibility of water in the resourse. The work reclaims substential lands from submergance and hence generate funds for completion this can dilute the grivence immidiately and provide funding for adopting other solutions i worth feel… Ravindra Pathak9420904444


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.