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, a study 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. 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. 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.
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. In case of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, the administration claims that there is about 50 MLD of sewage still being discharged into river untreated. 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. 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. As on 28th February 2013, there are 27 operational cooperative sugar factories in Pune and Solapur combined with total crushing capacity of 83750 tons/day. In addition, in the same region, according to government records, there are 19 private sugar factories. 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. 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.
- There is no effective machinery to ensure judicious inter-district water sharing.
- In the wake of severe drought also, we continue to divert our water to water surplus basins from water deficit Bhima basin
- 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.
- 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 (email@example.com)
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)
 From Centre for Science and Environment