Dams · Maharashtra · Rivers

Maharashtra Urban water sector in 2016: Big cities eyeing big dams

Above: Pipelines which supply water to Pune City from Khadakwasla Dam (Photo: Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP)

Urban narrative of Maharashtra revolves predominantly around cities of Mumbai (along with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region i.e. MMR), Pune, Nagpur and Nashik. Dominance of these large urban centres or the big cities over raw water sources is apparent. These cities have per capita water supply much more than the prescribed norms and continue to seek more water allocations. As Maharashtra gears up to fund more and more dams tapping finances from different sources, big cities with growing footprint of water consumption are all set to claim more water from these dams.

In 2016, these cities- while remaining as unaccountable in their wasteful water use- have been successful in securing their share of water either from proposed dams or existing ones from which they are already sourcing raw water. Sanctions for new dams or additional allocations from existing dams were granted on backdrop of drought of 2016. Water supply of these cities was also given priority during drought when smaller towns suffered much more.

Smaller towns on the other hand have continued to aspire for abundant tap water supply. Following foot print of the larger cities the small towns (typically municipal corporations of class B, C or D) have come up with plans to source water from faraway sources. Central government has continued funding these projects without questioning their sustainability.

Meanwhile a comprehensive policy on urban water sector remains nonexistent.

Mumbai (and MMR): In early March the state government decided to revive controversial irrigation projects like Balganga, Kondhane, Kalu, Shai and Gargai planned in the MMR.[1] These dams form a part of 12 dams proposed in eco sensitive region of Western Ghats which are also under scanner of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) for corruption, financial irregularities and violation of environmental laws of the nation. Incidentally ACB probe is still far from complete. Mumbai Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) along with seven other Municipal Corporations which form a part of MMR[2] have been aggressively pushing for these dams to cater to their urban and industrial water demand.

Pune: In the end of March 2016 Bhama Askhed dam pipeline project worth Rs 380 crore to supply more water to Pune city was cleared by the state government.[3] In the first phase of the project, a 26 km pipeline will be laid from the Bhama Askhed dam in Khed taluka to Pune city, while a 16 km pipeline will be laid in the second phase. In addition to the 1250 MLD (Million Liters per Day) that Pune city already consumes, it will get 200 MLD (2.76 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) per year) water from the Bhama Askhed dam. Opposition to this project was largely political and was settled with intervention of Chief Minister (CM) of Maharashtra.

Bhama Askhed Dam (Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP)
Bhama Askhed Dam (Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP)

Nagpur: In April the government sanctioned more than the required amount for proposed Kochi barrage on Kanhan River for provision of additional water to Nagpur. Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has been counting on this barrage for meeting the water supply to the city in the coming years.

With little or no chance of getting extra allocation from Totladoh dam for city NMC proposed to draw water by constructing Kochi barrage on Kanhan River. The government resolution (GR) in this regard was issued by the water resources department on March 29, 2016 and cost of Rs 162 crore was recommended by a three member committee headed by an additional chief secretary. “Looking at the importance” of the project government however sanctioned Rs 222 crore, higher than the project requirement of Rs 162 crore.[4]

Nashik: In May the state government cleared Mukane dam project worth Rs 266 crore which will cater to Nashik city’s water supply till 2041.[5] The project includes head works of diverting 400 MLD water from the dam, laying an 18-km pipeline, and a proposed filtration plant. The project was stayed in 2015 by minister of state for urban development due to irregularities in the tender process.

In addition, highest-ever drinking water reservation for the city from Gangapur dam complex was done in October, for ensuring water till July 15, 2017. The district water committee approved the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) demand for reservation of 4.3 TMC water, over 0.8 TMC more than the allocation made last year. In the years 2013-14 and 2014-15, the district panel had reserved 4.0 TMC water to meet the drinking requirements of Nashik city. Additional 0.5 TMC water was reserved in 2014-15 considering the arrival of lakhs of pilgrims for the Simhastha Kumbh Mela.

NMC had demanded 4.2 TMC from Gangapur dam, but it will however get 3.9 TMC from the complex. The remaining 0.400 TMC water will be drawn from Darna dam.

Nashik citizens raising issue of leakages in Municipal Water Supply (Source: Unknown)

Cities are demanding more water from dams based on wasteful water supply and unjustified water demand projections

It is important to note that while demanding more water from dams, current per capita water supply of these cities is more than the norm of 135 lpcd (liters per capita per day) which is considered as a standard norm prescribed by Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO). Mumbai supplies 225 lpcd[6] while Thane an important emerging urban centre of MMR supplies 212 lpcd in non-slum areas and 135 lpcd in slum areas.[7] In fact as analysed by SANDRP in its 2013 report on dams in Western Ghats, according to the City Sanitation Plans (CSPs, prepared during JNNURM), all the Municipal Corporations in MMR with an exception of Vasai Virar have per capita water availability higher than the norm of 135 lpcd.[8] Pune has per capita supply of 194 lpcd[9] while that it Nagpur it is 200 lpcd.[10] Per capita water supply in Nashik ranges between 149 to 155 lpcd.[11] Pune in fact consumes 16 TMC water annually when the sanctioned water allocation is only 11.5 TMC.

How wasteful are the water supply systems of these cities can be seen from the volume of unaccounted for water or water losses. Mumbai which is pushing for four dams in Western Ghats has the water losses to the tune of 25-30%. According to the critiques BMC does not have a map to detect the pipelines, let alone repair them.[12] For Thane the water losses are 20%. For Pune the figure is pegged at whopping 35%. In Nagpur, even when private company Orange City Water Supply (OCWL) took over Nagpur’s water supply in 2011 promising better efficiency, the losses could not be curbed below 32%. And Nashik ranks highest with water losses “higher than 40%”.[13]

Pipeline in Dadar (Mumbai) leaking in August 2016 (Photo: Indian Express)
Pipeline in Dadar (Mumbai) leaking in August 2016 (Photo: Indian Express)

And what is the significance of these numbers? Just to put things in perspective, SANDRP in its 2013 report on dams in Western Ghats showed that even after discounting Mumbai for 25% of distribution losses, still 7.86% of the water goes unaccounted for. It equals to 880 MLD of water, nearly equal to two large dams Mumbai is planning to build!

And these dams will not come for free. They have their own baggage. Four of the five dams of Western Ghats which have been revived by the state will together submerge more than 7000 ha of land including more than 2500 ha of thick forest and affect more than 50,000 of population including significant number of tribals.

What is even more ironic is, such unjustified figures become the basis for future water demand projections which are in turn the basis for asking for more dams and more water allocation. Most stark of the examples is of Mumbai which assumes the future per capita water supply at 240 lpcd![14] As is evident this figure is unjustifiably large. In the CSP for Thane per capita supply assumed for future is 212 lpcd. Latest Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by a private company for Water Supply Project of Pune assumed the per capita supply as 150. The City Development Plan for Nagpur prepared in June 2006 quotes UDPFI (Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation) guidelines, stating “135 lpcd is an absolute minimum figure, while 150-200 lpcd is the desirable level.” It does not specify the per capita water supply assumed to arrive at future water demand, but the figures show that it is assumed at 197 lpcd.

As is evident there is no standard format for estimating future water demand. Report of the Working Group on ‘Urban and Industrial Water Supply and Sanitation for 12th Five Year Plan’ takes a very serious note of this. The report states, the system of estimating demand and supply of water in cities is rudimentary and leads to poor accounting and poorer planning.”

Poor state on open canal which caters to 30% water to Pune city from Khadakwasla dam
Poor state of open canal which caters to 30% water to Pune city from Khadakwasla dam

Water supply to big cities not reduced during drought

The four big cities of Mumbai, Pune Nashik and Nagpur have been water surplus cities located in upper reaches of their respective river basins. Consequently these cities were better off than rest of the small towns during the drought of 2016. In fact water supply to these cities was given priority. Efforts were made to insulate them from the effects of drought.

In April the state government sought help of Railways to counter the water shortage in the sub-urban extensions of Mumbai. CM Devendra Fadnavis promptly approached the Indian Railways to provide water for Navi Mumbai and Thane.[15] While water-supply in Navi Mumbai was decreased by 50 per cent since the January, the region of Thane received water for an hour once in three days. The water was arranged from Railway dam located in Igatpuri, which reportedly had sufficient stock.

Pune is an upper riparian city in Bhima basin. Having four upstream dams at its disposal Pune saw barely 20% water cuts during summer. 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.[16]

Nashik lies in upper reaches of Godavari basin which is plagued with severe intra-state water conflicts. Even when Jayakwadi dam was at dead storage level, at lowest-ever since its construction, water supply of Nasik city was not reduced much. It continued to get water once a day (instead of usual twice a day). The Gangapur dam complex from where Nashik receives water comprises of Gangapur dam, Kashyapi weir and Gautami Godavari weir. In early June, before onset of monsoon, Water release from this complex to Ahmednagar, Aurangabad and Jalna districts was opposed by the people and political parties.

In Nagpur, every year during summer period additional water as per requirement is released from Right Bank canal of Navegaon Khairi dam to fulfill the water requirement of the city. Even in 2016 around 30 Cusec of water was released in March and April by Water Resources Department.[17]

Dominance of these cities over raw water sources can be clearly seen. It is also worth pointing out that Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur were all set to host total 19 IPL matches. The Bombay High Court ordered that 13 of the 19 matches- 6 in Pune, 4 in Mumbai and 3 in Nagpur should be moved out of Maharashtra in the context of prevailing drought. According to PIL filed by NGO Loksatta Movement & others as much as 60 lakh litres of water was proposed to be used for maintaining cricket pitches at the 3 venues nominated for IPL 2016.[18] 

Dams were of little help during drought for towns in Marathwada

In April when summer was approaching its peak, and when the four big urban centres were relatively insulated from the drought, many towns of Marathwada were barely hanging on with but a few hours of water supply every week. The large dams in Marathwada, such as Jayakwadi, Majalgaon, Manjara, Yeldari, Siddheshwar Vishnupuri, Lower Terna, Manar, and Sina-Kolegaon supplying water to Aurangabad, Hingoli, Nanded, Latur, Parbhani, Beed dried up completely.[19] The lower Dudhana and Upper Painganga were the two dams with marginal stock of water on which few of these towns survived.[20]

Dry Manjara dam during drought of 2016 (Photo: Hindustan Times)
Dry Manjara dam during drought of 2016 (Photo: Hindustan Times)

Latur, one of the most important urban centres of Marathwada got amply highlighted through the drought for receiving water by train. Since 22 Feb, 2016, it had completely stopped supply water which otherwise was supplied every 22 days. ‘Jaldoot’, a water supply train for Latur was commissioned by the railway ministry in collaboration with the Maharashtra government. Starting from April 11 train made its trips from Miraj to Latur covering a distance of 342 km and transported half million lt of water per trip. Per capita water delivered was just about 1.5 lt. Initially the plan focused on supplying water only to Latur City. Villagers en route pressurized the district collector to make water available for them as well.[21]

While water train to Latur was one of the most celebrated drought mitigation measures of the state government, rest of the towns in Marathwada had to cope up with the available water supply. A report in Indian Express gives a detailed account of these towns.[22]

Aurangabad received municipal water supply every second or third day. Dead storage of Jayakwadi was being pumped to supply water to Aurangabad. Situation in other towns of Marathwada was even worse. 

Hingoli town having a water demand of 9 MLD, depended on Siddheshwar dam and received water supply once in three days. With water supply only for few hours once in four days, Nanded town survived on 50 MLD against its demand of 100 MLD. In Parbhani, demand was nearly 30-35 MLD but municipal supply was at 17 MLD. Water was supplied once in seven days to Parbhani. Jalna received 20 MLD against a demand of 48 MLD. Jalna saw municipal water supply once in eight days, albeit for few hours. For Beed city, supply was 23 MLD against a demand of 30 MLD with water supply once every 8 to 10 days.

Bendsura dam which supplies water to Beed dried in Summer of 2016 (Photo: Hindustan Times)

Parbhani, after Latur, was the second town where prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were imposed in localities near water supply bodies banning assembly of five or more persons.

Policy to regulate the urban water supply remains non-existent

On background of drought the state govt decided to evolve comprehensive urban centric policies to “tackle the growing challenges of water crisis in cities” across Maharashtra. The ministries of urban development, water resources, industries and finance were to come together for the integrated urban water plan. It remains unclear if such policy was formulated.

Unfortunately the very purpose of the policy was stated as “to make very urban conglomerate water surplus.” Regulating water use of urban centres like Pune, Mumbai, Nashik was not on the agenda when in fact it is an urgent need. A study published by Prayas in 2013 revealed the mammoth diversions of irrigation water for non-irrigated use granted by the High Powered Committee (HPC). According to the report, 30 to 90 per cent of water from 23 projects was diverted for non-irrigation use out of which 15% was diverted for urban domestic use alone. The study explicitly states that Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Navi Mumbai and Nagpur have been biggest beneficiaries of water diversion.[23]

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 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.

This governance mechanism which facilitates more water allocation to cities still remains intact, the cities continue to search for reliable, cleaner & faraway raw water sources while 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.

Water supply projects taken up across the state remain dependent on dams

Drought of 2016 clearly demonstrated how the urban water supply dependent on dams is unsustainable. For big cities the inefficient water supply systems were fed by compromising water supply for drinking and irrigation to the downstream areas while for the smaller towns especially in the drought prone regions the dried up dams were hardly a rescue. This is not the first time it was so apparent. Drought like situation prevailing for last four years has been consistently proving this fact.

Even so the urban water supply of Maharashtra remains solely dependent on fetching water from faraway dams. Such excessively supply side focused options are clearly inadequate and flawed. Demand management considering the higher than normal per capita water supply, reducing transmission and distribution losses, rejuvenating and integrating local water resources into water supply systems, considering rainwater harvesting (RWH) along with groundwater recharge as a mainstream water resource, treating and recycling sewage are not considered while planning at all.

This trend which was rampant in the big cities and metros is now being extended to smaller towns as well through missions like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Transformation (AMRUT). While the big cities have age old established flawed set up of urban water supply, the smaller towns with water supply systems still taking shape seem to have a chance of coming up with a more holistic systems. This possibility is however being weakened by the urban missions which are making the conventional water supply systems into a norm.

AMRUT has been funding water supply projects across the state since its inception in June 2015. The Mission requires the states to prepare a State Annual Action Plan (SAAP) which will be approved once every year by Ministry of Urban Development. The SAAP has to be prepared by the State High Powered Steering Committee (SHPSC) aggregating the Service Level Improvement Plans (SLIPs) prepared by individual cities. Approval to individual projects will then be given by the SHPSC according to the SAAP.

For Maharashtra 13 Water Supply projects and 11 sewerage projects were approved in SAAP of 2016-17. In previous year under SAAP, 21 Water Supply & 1 Sewerage Projects were approved which are slowly moving towards implementation.

State Annual Action Plan of 2016-17 for Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Transformation

The mission guidelines make impressive statements like “There should be a ‘decisive break with the past’ during the preparation of the SLIPs by the ULBs. For example, instead of pumping water from long distances involving huge capital and electricity consumption costs, the States/ULBs should examine alternatives, such as water recycling and reuse.” It has also made “Rejuvenation of water bodies specifically for drinking water supply and recharging of ground water” as one of the mission components.

In reality however the water supply projects and sewerage projects approved in SAAP remain entirely conventional. 21 administrative proposals granted to 21 cities in year 2016 are all about sourcing raw water from distant sources (either dams or rivers), conveyance of raw water, conventional Water Treatment Plants, distribution networks, Elevated Storage Reservoirs, automation of pumping machinery etc. And two sewerage projects approved talk about mechanical set up for pumping of raw sewage and conventional Sewage Treatment Plants.

Interestingly 12 water supply projects granted with administrative approvals include ‘working surveys’ in the project. The question that arises is why are the surveys being conducted AFTER the project is approved? Were they not supposed to be conducted before preparing the city specific SLIP (service level improvement plan)?

The overall format of the approved project shows that not much thought has gone into making SLIPs. Demand management, exploring local water sources, integrating RWH into and use of recycled water into water supply has not been given any consideration.

Onus of this lies partly with the flawed framework of the AMRUT and partly with the steering committee which is supposed to approve the SAAP. Purpose of the mission stops at ensuring “that every household has access to a tap with assured supply of water and a sewerage connection”. It further states that other benchmarks will be targeted according to ‘national priorities’ only after achieving the benchmark of universal coverage.

RWH has been included in the reforms which incidentally are delinked from projects and without any penalty if not implemented. The mission guidelines state “projects get delayed if release of project funds is linked to non-completion of Reforms.” So reforms are clearly delinked from projects.

Accordingly SAAP 2016-17 for Maharashtra considers only four benchmarks viz. 100% coverage of water supply, per capita supply of 135 lt per day, 100% coverage for sewerage collection and 100% efficiency in sewerage collection. While the SAAP is supposed to give a clear road map of implementing reforms, such road map for RWH is completely missing.

The requirement of fetching 135 lpcd from the distant sources can very well be reduced if the local water sources are integrated and RWH and use of recycled water is given a due consideration. But since it is not on priority at least as of now, it remains out of question.

One can clearly see how inadequate these benchmarks are for a state annual action plan worth Rs 2489.91 crore.

In conclusion

In 2016 the large urban centres of Mumbai (along with MMR), Pune, Nashik and Nagpur have continued their wasteful water supply despite severe water scarcity faced by their downstream regions. These cities were provided with cushioning during drought and did not face water cuts beyond 20%. Smaller towns especially in drought prone regions continue to aspire for a 24×7 water supply like big cities. Central government continues to fund conventional water supply projects without questioning their sustainability. And regulatory measures to curb the growing footprint of urban water supply remain absent or ineffective.

There is no Urban Water Policy, nor any will to democratize the governance of Urban Water Sector.

While there does not seem to be any particularly encouraging news on urban water governance front, residents of cities like Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, Nagpur are slowly waking up to realize the importance of the rivers flowing through the city. Year 2016 saw some noteworthy people driven initiatives to connect with the rivers. SANDRP will be soon writing in more detail about some of these initiatives.

Amruta Pradhan, amrutapradhan@gmail.com , SANDRP


[1] http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai/maharashtra-plans-to-revive-controversial-konkan-irrigation-projects/story-xApcoNocUNBUo465IHicoJ.html


[2] Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Navi Mumbai, Ulhasnagar, Bhiwandi- Nizamapur, Vasai-Virar and Mira-Bhayandar


[3] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Decks-cleared-for-Bhama-Askhed-project/articleshow/51624356.cms

[4] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Govt-sanctions-Rs-222-crore-for-Kochi-barrage/articleshow/51639139.cms

[5] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nashik/Mukane-dam-project-work-finally-begins/articleshow/52194608.cms

[6] http://test.icrier.org/pdf/Maharashtra_05nov12.pdf

[7] http://www.prudaonline.com/aiilsg/jdownloads/City%20Sanitation%20Plans/CSPMS/csp_thane.pdf

[8] https://sandrp.in/Mumbai_Dams_Draft_Report_Dec_2013.pdf

[9] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/consume-more-pollute-more-pay-less-ask-for-more-dams-pune-citys-water-supply/

[10] http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pdacw407.pdf

[11] http://nashikcorporation.in/public/upload/download/10_0_Nashik%20Draft%20CSP_Executive%20summary.pdf

[12] http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai/how-mumbai-s-civic-body-can-cut-its-water-losses/story-0VXTZ889sqTrLIW2N8iw2M.html

[13] http://www.smartnashik.in/docs/smartcity_guidelines.pdf

[14] A 1993 Report of Committee headed by Former Water Resources Secretary Dr. Madhav Chitale appointed by state government to study the future water scenario for Mumbai is used even today by agencies like MCGM and MMRDA to push for dams in Western Ghats. Apart from overestimating the population growth the committee based its future predictions assuming a per capita supply of 240 lpcd.

[15] http://www.india.com/news/india/drought-in-maharashtra-navi-mumbai-thane-to-receive-water-from-railway-dam-1131031/

[16] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/consume-more-pollute-more-pay-less-ask-for-more-dams-pune-citys-water-supply/

[17] http://www.nagpurtoday.in/kanhan-river-level-goes-down-water-supply-of-north-east-south-east-nagpur-affected/04151849

[18] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/ipl-in-maharashtra-prioritise-according-to-state-water-policy-saya-bombay-hc/#sthash.l0xzmJG6.dpuf

[19] http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai/state-s-major-dams-dry-up-but-pre-monsoon-rain-brings-hope/story-p4y33QTYTwVqTnSEg6r3kN.html


[20] Ibid.

[21] http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/latur-villagers-want-water-train-2754226/

[22] http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/marathwada-water-crisis-maharashtra-water-crisis-2759591/

[23] http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/in-maharashtra-irrigation-water-diverted-for-industry-and-domestic-use-report/article4613290.ece

4 thoughts on “Maharashtra Urban water sector in 2016: Big cities eyeing big dams

  1. Reblogged this on DROUGHT FREE MOVEMENT and commented:
    Drought Free Movement
    The state of various affected regions is getting worse every day. Water crisis won’t end unless strategic, concrete plans are implemented. Bharatiya Jain Sanghtana has been working on the major objective of eradicating water crisis in Maharashtra.
    Support us in the noble cause and help end drought and not the lives!


  2. Dear sir/ madam
    In regard to the water wastage in Maharashtra specifically speaking about pune the car washing center in and around pune has sprouted like wild bush wasting substantial amount of water on daily basis a law should be made to control these kinds of activity the state goes into a drought like condition. I am not sure wether raising this issue on the correct forum.
    Subroto chatterjee


    1. Yes, Subrato. All wastage of such water should be questioned. You should raise this at all forums, but may be write to Maharashtra Govt/ CM and also Pune Municipal Corporation.


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 )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter 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.