The Pune Divisional Commissioner, Saurabh Rao, introduced a crucial measure, emphasizing that no new permissions in the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s jurisdiction would be granted without a thorough evaluation of the local body’s, PMRDA’s, and Zilla Parishad’s water-supply capabilities for new constructions. The commissioner, chairing the second meeting addressing the water crisis in PMC and PCMC, stressed the inadequacy of relying solely on builder affidavits for permissions.
The gathering, attended by 60 to 70 representatives from housing societies, Housing Federations, and related bodies, focused on discussing essential measures to combat the crisis. The issue of water supply demands through tankers by PMC and PCMC was revisited, with the Divisional Commissioner indicating an ongoing evaluation. To better understand the situation, mandatory spot visits to both corporations were initiated to formulate suitable solutions.In an effort to improve communication and address grievances promptly, both corporations decided to introduce a dedicated email ID for housing complexes to register water scarcity-related complaints. Furthermore, it was agreed that, starting from the next meeting, complaints would be received in advance, and solutions would be presented during the subsequent monthly gathering.
Advocate Satya Muley, representing residents in the Bombay High Court, highlighted the widespread nature of the water crisis and emphasized the urgent need for intensive efforts from the special committee. While recognizing the significance of immediate solutions, Muley underscored the necessity of long-term planning, pointing out deficiencies in the strategic planning of both corporations. Several representatives voiced frustration during the meeting, expressing concerns about the perceived lack of action by both corporations in effectively addressing the ongoing crisis. The meeting concluded with a commitment to collaborative efforts and a renewed focus on strategic and sustainable solutions to tackle the issue of water scarcity in PMC and PCMC.
Pune’s Water Woes: Navigating Challenges Amid Rapid Urbanization
In the midst of its rapid urbanization, Pune is confronted with a significant challenge – a strained water supply. The city draws its water from four key surface sources: Khadakwasla Dam, Panshet Dam, Warasgaon Dam, and Temghar Dam, collectively providing a total live storage capacity of around 30 TMC (thousand million cubic feet). Despite this substantial water resource, Pune is grappling with an escalating demand. Currently, the city supplies approximately 14.5 TMC (1250 MLD) of water, with 70% sourced from a closed conduit system featuring a 3000 mm diameter pipeline, and the remaining 30% through an open canal system.
Pune’s water allocation, as per the agreement between the Pune Municipal Corporation and the State Irrigation Department, is capped at 11.50 TMC (900 MLD) annually. However, the city exceeds this allocation, consuming roughly 14.5 TMC (1250 MLD) each year. To address this growing demand prompted by the city’s swift expansion, the Pune Municipal Corporation has approached the State Irrigation Department, seeking an increased water allocation of 19 TMC (1500 MLD).The city’s water distribution system encompasses 56 storage reservoirs with a combined capacity of 400 ML, covering 30% of the daily demand. The expansive network spans about 2500 kilometers, incorporating various pipe sizes ranging from 80 mm to 3000 mm.
Nevertheless, Pune encounters significant challenges in water distribution. The city’s undulated saucer-shaped topography, combined with an unplanned and aging distribution network, hinders efficient water delivery. The outdated infrastructure adds to the complexities, impeding the seamless supply of water to Pune’s residents.As Pune’s Municipal Corporation engages in discussions with the State Irrigation Department to address the city’s surging water needs, residents anxiously await a resolution that ensures a sustainable and dependable water supply for Pune’s evolving landscape. The outcome of these negotiations will play a crucial role in determining the city’s ability to meet the water demands of its burgeoning population amidst the complexities of urban expansion.
Pune’s Unchecked Water Tanker Mafia: A ₹100 Crore Business
The water tanker mafia in Pune has flourished into a thriving annual business estimated at over ₹100 crore, operating without effective oversight from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Maharashtra state government. The illicit operations involve unmetered water supply by the PMC to tankers, daily theft from municipal filling stations, cartelization of water rates, harassment of those resisting exploitation, destruction of CCTV cameras, and resistance to GPS tracking.
The water mafia’s influence extends to diverting water supply to bottled water units, using processed municipal water to package 20-liter jars of ‘mineral water’ sold to establishments and homes at inflated prices. Pune’s dependency on tankers is exacerbated by new housing colonies receiving occupancy certificates without municipal water supply, thanks to ‘water affidavit’ agreements with builders.
Despite a 2017 court order restricting new projects in water-scarce areas, the problem persists. The water mafia, comprising tanker operators, builders, politicians, and civic staff, operates with impunity. The PMC water supply department notes a substantial increase in tanker trips over the years, with an estimated 700 tankers in the city, although some suggest the number could be much higher. Tanker loads, selling at rates from ₹1,200 to ₹2,500, contribute to an annual business exceeding ₹100 crore. Previous attempts to introduce GPS tracking faced opposition, but a recent announcement by the PMC to implement GPRS on 100 water tankers indicates renewed efforts to curb the water tanker mafia’s activities. The challenge lies in overcoming resistance from influential tanker operators reluctant to embrace transparency.
Solution to solve the water crisis in Pune:
To address the water crisis in Pune and cater to its unique demographic needs, a comprehensive approach is essential. Firstly, implementing aquifer recharging initiatives can play a crucial role. Pune, with its undulated saucer-shaped topography, could benefit from strategic aquifer recharging by capturing excess surface water and treating it before injection into underground aquifers. Utilizing native plant species in wetland areas can further enhance natural recharge capabilities, ensuring sustainable groundwater resources for the growing population.
Additionally, embracing water reuse and Zero-Liquid Discharge Technology is imperative. Municipalities and industries in Pune can adopt closed-loop systems that treat and reuse water, minimizing discharge and contributing to overall water conservation efforts. Such technologies could be tailored to suit the city’s industrial landscape and residential needs, promoting a more efficient and responsible use of water resources.Coastal reservoir projects, akin to those successfully implemented in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, could offer a viable solution for Pune. The city’s proximity to water bodies allows for the exploration of similar projects, providing a sustainable and reliable source of drinking water.
Desalination plants, though energy-intensive, could be considered as part of the solution. While acknowledging the energy challenges, strategic planning and technology advancements may help mitigate the energy consumption concerns associated with desalination. Pune can explore innovative and eco-friendly desalination technologies to meet its water demands without significantly impacting the energy grid.A combination of aquifer recharging, advanced water reuse technologies, coastal reservoir projects, and judicious use of desalination can pave the way for a sustainable water future for Pune. Tailoring these solutions to Pune’s specific demographic and geographic characteristics is essential for effective implementation and long-term success in mitigating the water crisis.