Dams · Urban Water Sector

Consume more, Pollute more, Pay less, Ask for more Dams: Pune City’s water policy

Above: Dying rivers, as they leave Pune Photo: Parineeta Dandekar

In May, decision of Pune’s Guardian Minister and head of canal committee of releasing 1 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) water from Khadakwasla Dam to downstream regions of Daund and Indapur saw huge protests from the city’s political parties and civic administration. Ensuring that Pune suffers no further water cut, even when downstream regions face historic drought, seems to have become the Mayor’s crusade. Keeping urban areas insulated and away from a terrible water crisis has its own major equity issues.

Pune is a water surplus city in upper riparian region of Krishna Basin. In a report “Reimagining Pune: Mission Smart City” submitted to Urban Development Department by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), it is admitted that Pune has water availability of 219 lpcd (liters per capita per day).[1] Even so, the city has been much reluctant to share its water with downstream villages. it has seen barely 20% water cuts since last October.

While discussions and debates about drought revolve around sugarcane, industries, rural water use, irrigation management etc, etc., the growing, unjustified footprint of urban areas generally is left scot free and Pune is a classic example if this.

Here, we take a brief look at PMC’s water supply approach with its monomaniacal supply-side focus. While sourcing much more water than allocated from four upstream dams, PMC has been shirking from its responsibility of treating waste water before releasing it for the downstream. PMC has taken the upstream dams for granted and is planning for expansion of water supply system with 24×7 water supply in near future, relying on more water from these dams.

There are stark similarities between Pune and other metros of India: Mumbai which wants water from 12 new dams, displacing 100,000 tribals and 22,000 hectares of Western Ghats to Delhi and its tryst with Renuka Dam in Himachal, affecting forests, tribals lands and Ramsar wetland.  

A policy framework to regulate urban water use is an urgent need, not only for Pune, but for the country. The current drought only makes the need starker.

The Khadakwasla Dam Photo from: Wikimapia.org

Pune City uses more water than allocated

The population of Pune Municipal Corporation area, as per census of 2011 is 3,115,431, with 29% growth in the preceding decade. Pune city’s water is provided by ‘Khadakwasla Project Complex’ which comprises of the four storage reservoirs built on Mutha River, belonging to the Irrigation Department of the Govt. of Maharashtra.

The total live storage capacity of the four Dams is around 29 TMC. PMC sources raw water from Khadakwasla dam (storage capacity of 1.96 TMC) which is fed by gravity from three upstream dams viz. Panshet (10.64 TMC), Varasgaon (12.81 TMC) and Temghar (3.71 TMC). Khadakwasal is the last dam in this cascacde. For the last five years, average annual water supplied to city ranges between 14.5 TMC (1250 MLD) to 16 TMC.[2]

Around 70% of the total requirement of the city is fulfilled through closed conduit of 3000 mm Diameter coming from Khadakwasla while 30% of the water comes from open canal.

Pune Dams

Dams around Pune. Photo from Khadakwasla Irrigation Department (Map not to scale)

Permission granted by Government of Maharashtra to Pune City to source raw water from Khadakwasla for drinking water supply of the city is governed by Maharashtra Irrigation Act 1976 and the Bombay Canal Rules 1934. An agreement is signed between Additional Municipal Commissioner (General) Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Executive Engineer Khadakwasla Irrigation Division (KID) for water allocation of 11.5 TMC for the city. The agreement is renewed every six years and the latest agreement was signed on March 01, 2013 which is valid till February 28, 2019.[3] Some of the typological errors in the agreement indicate a copy paste job.

Yes, you read it right, agreement is for 11.5 TMC and Pune takes upto 16 TMC!

When the Khadakwasla dam was built in 1879, Pune’s water allocation was 1 MCM (Million Cubic Metres, 28.3 MCM= 1 TMC).[4] This demand was satisfied by Khadakwasla Dam and various other local sources including the lakes and wells in and around the city. In 1957, the Panshet and Warasgaon dams were proposed, and Pune’s share increased to 36.4 MCM (1.29 TMC). Water allocations from the project were revised several times to meet the additional demands of Pune city. After 1972 allocation for Pune was 5 TMC which was later revised to 7.2 TMC in 1984. From 1995 water consumption of Pune city started increasing rapidly.

In 1997 Irrigation department agreed to increase water allocation of Pune upto 11.5 TMC by year 2001 against a condition that PMC should treat and recycle 6.5 TMC water for irrigation purpose, releasing it into the canals. Accordingly the allocation was increased to 11.5 TMC in 2001 which continues till date. However Pune’s water consumption has doubled in last 15 years, from 8 TMC in 1998-99 to 16 TMC in 2014-15.

And since 2007-08 Pune routinely sources more water than allocated.

The condition of recycling 6.5 TMC water however remains unfulfilled even after 15 years.

We don’t just pollute the river, we pollute the canals too. Photo from : Indian Express

Last year with average per capita water supply of 194 lpcd hugely more than CPHEEO norm of 150 LPCD, PMC has drawn 28% excess water than it is actually allocated.

pic1Figure 1:Increase in Pune Water Supply (Source: Data obtained from Khadakwasla Irrigation Division)

Water Losses

Even when the water use was already well over the allocated quota since 2007-08 PMC had not conducted water audit till 2011. October 2011 Report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) revealed that till date PMC had not conducted the water audit, even after water supply and sanitation department of the state government had instructed the cities to undertake energy & water audits and inspect water leakages via government resolution in September, 2000, and again in August 2005.[5]

The scrutiny by CAG also revealed that the PMC had failed to check water losses as the quantity of water lifted from the irrigation department was not available in the records.

Finally the process of water audit was initiated by PMC in March 2012[6].

Currently about 25% excess water is released by the canal as there is only a flow meter and gauge at the Mutha RBC. Maintenance of the canal has been a problem since it is constantly in use. Losses due to deteriorated lining of the canal are about 20%. While 6% of water is lost during the treatment alone, distribution losses are as high as 35%.[7]

The Hindu
Dismal state of Mutha River Photo from: The Hindu

Interestingly timeline for PMC for reducing the water losses to the level accepted by norms i.e. 15% seems to be year 2027, 11 more years!![8] This kind of timeline should clearly not be acceptable.

tableFigure 2: Timeline drawn by PMC for reducing water losses (called NRW: Non Revenue Water) (Source: Detailed Project Report for Water Supply System for Pune City p.14)

Implications of Pune’s excess water use on downstream irrigation

Implications of such unregulated water use by Pune city are clearly visible in an unpublished study conducted by Prayas Resources & Livelihoods Group, Pune which reveals many startling facts about water allocations and diversions from Khadakwasla dam.

The study shows that according to the original allocation of ‘Khadakwasla Project Complex’ prepared in 1957 only about 4% of the total water storage was allocated for Pune city. Rest 96% was allocated to irrigation in Khadakwasla command area. The study estimates that 54% of the total utilizable water has been diverted from agriculture to non-agriculture use. To quench the growing thirst of Pune city alone about 10.22 TMC (289.27 M Cum) of originally planned irrigation water has been diverted, which contributes to almost 85% of the total water diversion and an estimated 20,338 Ha of irrigation potential was lost until 2005 due to this diversion. By 2014-16 with Pune extracting 16 TMC instead of the allocated 11.5 TMC the figure of loss of irrigation potential mounts up to whopping 29196.81 ha.

Penalty for excess water sourcing not paid by PMC

While Pune has taken the excess water for granted, the city municipal corporation has not even been paying for the excess use as per the agreement clauses!

The current agreement for raw water sourcing between PMC and KID (Khadakwasla Irrigation Division) clearly states that if PMC sources more than 10% of the agreed quantity (i.e. 11.5 TMC) without prior sanction, a penal rate of 50% will be charged over basic rate. It is obvious that PMC has to pay by the penalty rate.

The agreement also states that if any water sources are polluted by PMC as identified by MPCB or by Irrigation Department then PMC will be charged with a penalty of Rs. 5000/- per such incident per day till it is rectified.

There is yet another penalty which PMC has to pay and that is for failing to obtain No Pollution Certificate from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) which is mandatory as per Government Resolution (GR) passed by Water Resources Department in Nov 2013.

Failing to obtain such certificate even after almost three years of said resolution, PMC becomes liable to pay twice the normal rate as per the GR mandate.

Data obtained from the PMC and KID shows that PMC has been waiving off the penalties and PMC is paying only for the water used. Average payment for last four years is as less as 18 to 30% of the billed amount. The payment includes for water used, including seepage and evaporation losses.

No treatment of 6.5 TMC water as per agreement

As the raw water agreement has been signed allowing quota of 11.5 TMC to PMC for drinking water supply on the condition that the PMC will supply treated 6.5 TMC sewage water and release it into the canal for agriculture purposes. PMC constructed a treatment plant at a cost of Rs 100 crore which involved constructing a bund on Mutha river, near Mundhwa village, and after treatment the water lifted through Jackwell and pump house would be released in existing canal in Sadesatra Nali area on Pune- Solapur Road[9]  through a 3.5 km pipeline.[10]

The treated water was supposed help irrigate 20,000 hectare of agriculture land.[11] It was supposedly one of its kind project. However the project inaugurated with much ceremony in October 2015 has been stalled for a number of issues and farmers of Pune’s nearby villages, who were to benefit from this project, claim that the plant is not functioning properly and releasing ‘improperly treated water’ for irrigation purposes, thereby polluting the groundwater in the region due to which they are facing health issues.[12]

After corporation’s failure in treating water, the farmers in March 2016 have filed a case with the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune bench, in this regard.[13] National Green Tribunal (NGT) has served a show cause notice to Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) asking why it hasn’t been providing treated water to farmers from the Mundhwa Jackwell Project.[14]

Apart from this 2015 Project, PMC has done nearly nothing to ease the irrigation problems of the downstream or to take the responsibility of the severe pollution in Ujani Dam in Solapur in the downstream, due to Pune’s incessant pollution.

Future water sources

While being a defaulter on recycling front PMC is promptly looking for more and more water sources to cater to the growing demand of the city. Temghar dam[15] has already been constructed for this purpose.[16] Now DPR of the “Water Supply System for Pune City” (water supply project) which outlines the plan for catering to water supply till year 2047 focuses excessively on supply side management relying solely on raw water sources of Khadakwasla dam and Bhama Askhed dam. Story of Bhama Askhed is also very interesting. After being constructed for irrigation, the dam does not provide a drop of water to its original command, because its canals are not built since more than 10 years!

The DPR (Detailed Project Report) of Pune Water Supply for 2047 (done by a private consultant firm) states “.….to meet the design year 2047 demand, it is expected that the additional quantity of 443 MLD or 6 TMC, will be made available from the same two dams.”

To secure water for near future PMC has already approached the Water Resource Department for increasing allocation from Khadakwasla dam to 19 TMC (1500 mld).[17] The department has insisted that PMC should treat 10.90 TMC waste water and release it for irrigation![18] At the current rate, this recycling may not happen for the coming twenty years!

While Water Resources Department has put conditions for drawing more water from Khadakwasla dam PMC has already obtained sanctions from Bhama Askhed project for 2.58 TMC and Pavna River for 0.342 TMC.

The Bhama Askhed Project comprises of new intake works at the dam, 36 km long aqueduct and a treatment plant of 200 MLD capacity to provide water to the North-eastern parts of city.[19] PMC envisages that, in the future, the supply to Pune from Bhama Askhed Dam may be further increased up to 285 MLD. Guardian Minister of Pune has been pushing for resuming work for Bhama Askhed project which has been stalled for nearly four months due to protest by more than 1000 affected people.[20]

DPR of Pune Water Supply Project for 2047 does acknowledge that “the water resources have been exploited up to their maximum potential and it will be more difficult to find additional water sources to meet the water demand with the growing level of consumption.” However this understanding has not reflected in the project planning at all.

Options like rejuvenating the contaminated local water resources like Katraj Lake and Pashan Lake (among others) and integrating them into water supply system or considering rain water harvesting along with groundwater recharge as a mainstream water resource have not been considered at all. There is also huge scope for reducing transmission and distribution losses and also demand side management considering the higher than normal per capita use in Pune, but none these get any adequate or credible planning or action program. Even though the current agreement specifically states that PMC shall recycle the effluent water for uses such as gardening, recreation, cooling, washing etc. so that at least 50% reduction is achieved in fresh water consumption, no steps have been proposed in the DPR to achieve this.

“Reimagining Pune: Mission Smart City” a report recently submitted to Urban Development Department by PMC pretty much reiterates what is stated in the DPR. Even though it states rainwater harvesting as one of its aspirations there seems to be no clear plan or institutional framework to achieve it.

Need of an Urban Water Policy!

As per MWRRA Act amended in 2011, right to reallocate water for non-irrigation purpose rests with the cabinet if the quantity exceeds 10% of the water storage in dams. Earlier these rights were with the High Power Committee (HPC) headed by Ajit Pawar which was operational till 2011, even if MWRRA was supposed to take over the task in 2005 following passage of MWRRA Act.

A study published by Prayas in 2013 revealed the mammoth diversions of irrigation water for non-irrigated use granted by the HPC. According to the report, 30 to 90 per cent of water from 23 projects was diverted for non-irrigation use.[21] Urban water sector has been one of the main beneficiaries of this diversion. With no policy framework to regulate the raw water sourcing, options assessment, participatory governance, treatment & recycle of sewage, protection of water bodies, stopping wasteful water use practices, use of treated water, the footprint of Urban Water Sector is growing rapidly. 

Rendering their own share of rivers and other local water sources unfit for domestic water use due to pollution, encroachment, solid waste dumping, land grabbing and apathy the cities have been in search of reliable, cleaner & faraway raw water sources. This, however, comes at huge costs, impacts and often comes from somebody else’s rightful share of water. Putting in place a comprehensive policy framework to address the gigantically growing footprint of Urban Water Use seems to be the urgent need especially on the background of the severe drought.

~ Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP, amrutapradhan@gmail.com


  • Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the “Water Supply System for Pune City” prepared in February 2014 by Studio Galli Ingegneria (SGI) a private company engaged by Pune Municipal Corporation
  • “Reimagining Pune: Mission Smart City, Detailed plan to transform Pune into a world-class Smart City” submitted Pune Municipal Corporation to Ministry of Urban Development Government of Maharashtra
  • Unpublished study by Prayas Resources & Livelihoods Organization, titled “Water Diversion from Irrigation to Non-Irrigation Use in Khadakwasla Project Complex”
  • Data obtained from PMC & KID regarding water consumption, reuse & billing


[1] “Reimagining Pune: Mission Smart City, Detailed plan to transform Pune into a world-class Smart City” submitted Pune Municipal Corporation to Ministry of Urban Development Government of Maharashtra, p.7

[2] As per data obtained from Khadakwasla Irrigation Division (KID), Pune

[3] As per the copy of latest agreement obtained from KID

[4] Unpublished study by Prayas Resources & Livelihoods Organization, Pune

[5] http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-pune-civic-body-fails-to-conduct-water-audit-for-10-years-1665840

[6] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/PMC-waits-for-water-audit-in-Sept-to-plan-steps/articleshow/12091097.cms

[7] Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the “Water Supply System for Pune City” prepared in February 2014 by Studio Galli Ingegneria (SGI) a private company engaged by PMC p.72

[8] P.43 of DPR

[9] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Incomplete-Mundhwa-STP-deprives-city-of-addl-drinking-water/articleshow/45903656.cms 

[10] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/villagers-see-red-over-pune-municipal-corporations-sewage-water-project/#sthash.oEIl3PDX.dpuf

[11] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/villagers-see-red-over-pune-municipal-corporations-sewage-water-project/

[12] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/villagers-see-red-over-pune-municipal-corporations-sewage-water-project/

[13] http://www.punemirror.in/pune/civic/Farmers-cry-foul-over-untreated-water-being-released-through-canal/articleshow/51566093.cms

[14] http://www.punemirror.in/pune/civic/NGT-showcauses-PMC-on-Mundhwa-Jackwell-Project/articleshow/51689048.cms

[15] http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/5906/11/11_chapter%202.pdf

[16] Unpublished study by Prayas Resources & Livelihoods Group Pune titled “Water Diversion from Irrigation to Non-Irrigation Use in Khadakwasla Project Complex”

[17] http://www.icrier.org/pdf/pune_6feb13_new.pdf

[18] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Irrigation-dept-puts-conditions-for-giving-extra-water-to-PMC/articleshow/16272750.cms

[19] P. 122 of DPR

[20] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/girish-bapat-pushes-for-stalled-bhama-askhed-pipeline-project/

[21] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/irrigation-water-diverted-for-industries-and-domestic-use-in-maharashtra/article4609969.ece



3 thoughts on “Consume more, Pollute more, Pay less, Ask for more Dams: Pune City’s water policy

  1. The only change in policy required for reducing consumption of Pune city is charging its citizens for actuak water usage instead of a generalised water cess in the municipal tax bill. A system similar to electricity billing where meters are installed in each household. Our thrifty nature takes over when it comes to paying out of our pockets thereby resulting in saving of water usage and less demand from the reservoirs.


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