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Activists want river navigation projects to be stopped at once

Coming hard on land-water grab designs such as Lavasa, several water activists, including Dr Rajendra Singh, founder of Jal Biradari, whose work includes observation of as many as 144 major rivers in the country, said that the wastage of water in any form should come to an end. He also said that restoration of the water bodies should be the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) prime target.

The Paani Hakka Samiti, a city-based NGO, had organised a conference, Water issues of Pune city and district yesterday, which emphasized on the issues related to water supply and the water crisis Punekars are facing. The Samiti, which has been formed by political parties with democratic vision and leanings towards constructive reforms and other organisations, aims to reach out to various citizen groups, schools and colleges, hoping to bring out an action plan to minimise wastage of water.

“It’s a peoples’ movement for clean, adequate and sustainable water supply for rural and urban population as well as agriculture. And to oppose water diversion for projects like Lavasa, where water from Dawse dam is being used for pleasure activities. The river navigation projects should be stopped immediately,” said Singh, who’s also a Magsaysay Awardee (2001).

Hinting at the exploitation and destruction of the rivers in the city, which is mainly due to concretisation and development, the activists said rivers are being encroached upon despite HC’s order, mandating that no construction should take place within 30 metres of rivers.

“Last year, despite excessive rainfall in the state, some parts experienced drought. The city has to rely on Khadakwasla and Panshet dams for water. If we don’t get clean water, then it’s the PMC’s responsibility to do the needful. The PMC is one of the major contributors of pollution in the Mula-Mutha rivers, as it releases up to 40 per cent of untreated sewage into these water bodies,” said Anupam Saraph, a member of Jal Biradari.

The activists claimed that since dams in Pune had 28.27 TMC (thousand million cubic metres) water, the irrigation department failed to explain the reasons behind water scarcity in the city.

“Even if 230 litres of water is used by each household in the city with a population of 35 lakh, still the collective usage comes to eight TMC. About 30 to 40 per cent of water is lost daily,” said Sunil Joshi, another member of Jal Biradari. 

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