Abundance of water in Lavasa raises hackles

At a time when the entire city is crying for water, the dams located at Lavasa are brimming with the precious liquid. Dam water is being used at Lavasa for pleasure activities like boating and water sports for visitors, and allegedly even at the construction sites there.

Water aplenty in lavasa: Boat rides and water sports facilities at Daswe dam in Lavasa on Sunday. This picture of plenty in Lavasa is in contrast to the situation in the city, which is short of drinking water. Pic/Vasant More

Such a contrasting picture of water use was noticed by Leader of the Opposition in the PMC Vasant More when he went to Lavasa — just 34 km from the city — to take a look at the water situation there in the backdrop of the acute water shortage in the city.

More, an MNS leader, said it was painful to see water used for pleasure activities in Lavasa when there was a shortage of water to drink in the city.
“I felt really bad to see that water in Daswe dam was being used for water games and boating while, on the other hand, Puneites have to run from pillar to post for drinking water,” More said.

The Leader of the Opposition said he, in the guise of a tourist, went for boating and was told by the boatman that just 20 days ago some of the water from Daswe had been released into the Warasgaon dam, one of the dams supplying water to the city.

“The locals in Lavasa informed me that construction work is still going on there, for which water is being used from the dam and only 25 per cent water is released for the city,” More said.

The MNS leader also noticed that the gardens in Lavasa were well maintained, while the number of gardens in the city facing a drought-like situation was increasing.

“They (Lavasa authorities) were planning to build seven dams in Lavasa, two of which have already been built. However, one can imagine what the water situation in the city will be when they build the remaining five dams,” More said.

“We have now decided not to attend any meetings called by Mayor Vaishali Bankar until and unless she calls for a special session of the PMC on the water crisis. The Mayor had organised meetings on the water crisis a few days ago, but no group leader of any party other than the NCP was invited.”

On the issue of ample water for Lavasa while the city witnesses a shortage, the Irrigation Department said it was mandatory for Lavasa to release water for the city during shortages.

“Although Lavasa has taken legal permission to stop the water and divert it to the project, according to the agreement it is mandatory for it to release the water from its dams whenever the city faces a water crisis,” Superintendent Engineer Avinash Surve said.

He added that though at present the water from Daswe dam was being used for construction purpose, the department had told the Lavasa authorities to use the dam as a water body upon completion of the construction.

Head of the PMC water supply department V G Kulkarni said that whenever construction sites in the city needed water, it was provided from wells using tankers.

“If Lavasa is using water for construction purpose, then it’s obvious that it is using it from the dam which it has constructed,” Kulkarni said.
The national convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement, Suniti SR, said: “According to the agreement with PMC, it was decided to give 1.031 TMC of water to Lavasa.

The ratio of water given to Lavasa is 15 per cent of total water storage for the city. Last year the city had faced water shortage of 15 per cent and this year also the shortage is between 15 and 20 per cent. This shows that the sole reason behind the water crisis in the city is the Lavasa project.”  Suniti added that it was wrong to give water that could be used for drinking to Lavasa for commercial purposes.

The other side
The Assistant Vice-President (Media Relation) of Lavasa Corporation Limited, Ashwin Shetty, denied that water was being diverted to Lavasa from the Warasgaon dam. Shetty said: “Lavasa is not diverting any water from Warasgaon dam. With regards to the release of water, we are doing it as required by the Irrigation Department. We stand by our commitment of releasing water as and when the need arises.” Shetty also said that it was baseless to say that Lavasa was using water from its dams for construction purposes. He said that treated sewage effluent was currently being used at Lavasa for construction purposes. Shetty did not reply to a question on how much water was being released for the city.

What is Lavasa?
Lavasa is a private planned city in Mose valley, 34 km from the city. Spread across 25,000 acres, it is being developed by Hindustan Construction Company. The project has often attracted controversy over land procurement, environment issues and alleged obtaining of loans using political clout.

Parties to Mayor: hold GB meeting
The Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS have issued a notice to Mayor Vaishali Bankar to call a special general body meeting to discuss the water problems plaguing the city. Shiv Sena corporator Ramesh Harnaval said, “We were not taken into confidence by the Mayor while discussing the water issue with the Irrigation Department last week and only members from NCP were present. We wanted to raise many issues of water supply in Pune.” 

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