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P.Sainath, People's Archive of Rural India

Consume more, pollute more, pay less, ask for more dams: The average Indian city’s water policy


A resident of Pune, Maharashtra’s second-most developed city, uses five times as much water as her counterpart in Latur, the district most ravaged by drought in south-central Marathwada region. That’s the extent of water inequality in Maharashtra, according to a new analysis, characterised by disproportionate availability and consumption of water across regions, crops and consumers.

Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP

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.

Read the full article with detailed charts on the SANDRP blog

RELATED
How Water Inequality Governs Drought-Hit Maharashtra
Abhishek Waghmare, IndiaSpend

A resident of Pune, Maharashtra’s second-most developed city, uses five times as much water as her counterpart in Latur, the district most ravaged by drought in the south-central Marathwada region.

That’s the extent of water inequality in Maharashtra, India’s most developed state, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of statewide water use, characterised by disproportionate availability and consumption of water across regions, crops and consumers.

The coastal region of Konkan—occupying a tenth of the state’s landmass and home to 14% of its population (except Mumbai)—contains more than half of Maharashtra’s water, according to government data.

The populous, dry and rain-shadow regions of western, central Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha, retain the other half, clashing with each other and neighbouring states for water.

But the natural imbalance of water does not make drought inevitable. That happens because water has been deliberately routed to areas where it is already plentiful and to farmers who are politically powerful.

Sugarcane—which is grown on 4% of the state’s farms—consumes 70% of water available for irrigation, IndiaSpend reported earlier, although no more than 1.1 million farmers grow the lucrative cash crop. In contrast, about 10 million jowar (sorghum), pulses and oilseeds farmers get no more than 10% of irrigation water.

“The earlier Congress–Nationalist Congress Party-led government was entrenched in sugar politics with 13 of the 30 cabinet ministers owning or controlling sugar factories,” Parineeta Dandekar, associate coordinator of South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and People, wrotein her analysis of the sugarcane situation in Maharashtra.

Read the full article on IndiaSpend

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