Pune: A number of noted city-based activists have hit back at State Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan’s call to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to conduct a water audit to plug ‘leakages’ in Pune’s water supply and distribution system.Activists asserted that the water resources department had no clarity on the proposed audit, while alleging rampant water theft with the knowledge of local corporators, many of whom have a thriving water tanker business.“What do they exactly mean by a water audit? The city’s supply system is in shambles. There aren’t sufficient meters and water resources as well as civic authorities are utterly clueless as to the water drawn by the PMC from the Khadakwasla dam,” said Major Gen. (retd.) S.N. Jatar of the Pune-based Nagrik Chetna Manch.The water drawn from the city’s lifeline — the Khadakwasla dam — goes to main purification station in the Parvati area where the meters don’t work, observed Mr. Jatar.“It is astonishing that given the push, authorities have very crude metrics to determine water taken. Both the Congress-NCP and the BJP have governed the civic body and the State at some point and have done nothing to ameliorate the situation,” he said.Maj. Gen. Jatar further alleged that 60 % of the so-called leakages are in fact diversions of precious water to unauthorised connections with the blessings of politicos in cahoots with the civic administration.Mr. Mahajan, who visited the city last week, had remarked that the PMC’s efforts to recycle 6 tmc water for irrigation purposes were “inadequate” while rapping citizens of Pune for consuming more water than necessary.“The Water Resources department, in a bid to cover up its own incompetency, is shifting the blame on citizens. It is the department which ought to be facing an audit instead,” said environmentalist and RTI activist Vivek Velankar, founder of the Sajag Nagrik Manch. Mr. Velankar pointed out that the Mundhwa jackwell, which was constructed by the PMC at the insistence of the Water Resources Department, had proved wholly ineffectual.The purpose of the ₹90 crore project was to recycle water and divert 6.5 tmc for irrigation purposes in the district’s rural areas.An average 515 millions of litres of water per day (MLD) was to be utilised for irrigation through this project.“However, the department has managed to utilise a paltry 140 MLD for irrigation over a six-month period from October 2017 to March this year,” said Mr. Velankar, adding that in October, the department did not draw any water from the project while in November, it drew a mere 10 MLD for irrigation. What is more disturbing is that residents in the villages along the jackwell project have claimed that polluted water released from it has contaminated canal water.“This is not merely a waste of precious water resources, but a crime. The Water Resources Minister blames Pune’s citizens for consuming more water and hints at levying more taxes,” Mr. Velankar said.Tanker mafia benefitsThe city’s water woes have translated into pelf for the ‘tanker mafia’, which has established itself as an alternate water supply source.Activists note the endemic corruption in the private tanker business.The civic body gives water to tankers at very low prices, which gets sold outside PMC limits at higher rates.“The economics of this illicit tanker enterprise benefits local politicos, many of whom control the business. Despite the PMC making it mandatory to install a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) in each vehicle, the civic body has failed to set up any sort of monitoring system to maintain records on the vehicles,” says RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar.Maj. Gen. Jatar said the fact that tankers are supplying corporation water proved it is available, and that the so-called shortage was ‘artificial’.
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