Ideas and Action for a Better India
Municipal Commissioner Shri Swadhin Kshatriya today admitted that the reservoirs supplying water to Mumbai have a severe shortfall of 25% and made a strong appeal to citizens to save and recycle water.
He said that as much as 300 MLD is easily recyclable, which is nearly 10% of the current supply. He also disclosed that the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was preparing a 7-month agenda to tide over the water crisis until the arrival of the next monsoon and appealed to the citizens to cooperate with the civic body.
He made these remarks in his valedictory remarks at a well attended Roundtable on the city’s Water Crisis, organized by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Mumbai today. The event brought to the fore a number of serious systemic problems, which have been left long unattended. A balanced approach which stressed on the need for institutional strengthening as much as on technical solutions was a hallmark of the discussion.
Shri Kshatriya observed that the civic body did not keep pace with the rising demand for water on account of the city’s growing population. “We failed to take note of the recommendations contained in the earlier reports,” he said, specifically mentioning the landmark 1994 Chitale Committee report.
The chief guest Shri Swadhin Kshatriya gave a hopeful and positive speech on how Mumbai must explore and expand the alternative methods of procuring water including desalination. He mentioned the potential adoption of EcoHousing Laws that symbolizes the greater awareness on the part of the local government to act on issues of climate change and environmental impact.
A powerful message imparted by the former MCGM Municipal Commissioner, Shri V Ranganathan, who was also the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra that, ”we in India mistake articulation for action”, set the tone for the meeting.
Various elected representatives such as Ram Kadam, MLA belonging to MNS; Ashish Shelar of BJP; and Adolf D’Souza each participated in the Roundtable, which was also attended by numerous civic activists from groups like AGNI and YUVA; as well as leading academicians like Subodh Wagle from TISS; Ajay Popat, CEO of ION Exchange; respected former engineers from the BMC’s Hydraulic Department including Mr TV Shah and Shri Dyanand Jhadav from Triratna Pererna Mandal. Shri Dhaval Desai of ORF made a comprehensive presentation, which set the context of the discussion.
Delegates from the Public Utilities Board, Government of Singapore gave a very insightful and inspiring presentation on the successes of water management in Singapore, which the Commissioner praised and expressed a keen desire to learn from. In particular, he applauded Singapore’s achievement of containing water leakages below 5% of total supply, and was eager for the BMC to also be able to reduce its wastage from the current levels of 20-25% to such desirable proportions. In this regard, he stated that we should take advantage of the technological improvements presently used worldwide.
Water activist Mr James John from AGNI gave a list of serious recommendations to the BMC amongst which were retaining technically trained and experience-rich members of the Hydraulic Department; separating water rights from property rights; and creating an autonomous authority like BEST for Water in Mumbai.
A number of speakers and participants alike were united in identifying political interference as a root problem in the issue of illegal water connections and the resultant water theft or unaccounted for water loss from the system, which amounts to as much as 650 MLD.
In concluding the session, the Commissioner commended ORF’s efforts to provide a non-partisan platform to debate, engage and mobilize relevant stakeholders, as well as in producing its base paper on “Water Management in Mumbai – Challenges and Prospects”.
Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of ORF Mumbai, highlighted the importance of focusing on long-term benefits over short-term gains; in moving from a vicious cycle of mismanagement and poor governance to a virtuous cycle of mutual cooperation; and above all taking an inclusive, integrated and sustainable approach to resolving the current challenges.
ORF is planning on conducting a study on the nature and the extent of the problem and will subsequently produce and distribute a report with various recommendations to the BMC as well as to the political class.