The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) to constantly monitor water level in all the dams of the state to ensure enough water is available for drinking in the drought-hit state.
The order was passed on a bunch of petitions urging adequate supply of water in drought-hit areas due to scarcity prevailing in various parts of the state.
The court was informed that the terms of many members of MWRRA had expired and hence the body was not functioning.
Hearing this, a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi ordered the Maharashtra government to appoint a new water regulatory authority within a week so that it can monitor the water level of the dams periodically.
If, for any reason, the state government was not in a position to constitute a new water regulatory body, then it should extend the term of old members which had expired, to enable MWRRA to function immediately, said the bench.
The court also asked the water regulatory authority to ensure that it accords priority to supply of drinking water to the people.
When the petitioners told the court that certain private entities were holding water, the bench observed that, "Natural resources such as water are the property of the nation as a whole and do not belong to any individual...these resources must not be diverted for other purpose."
The court directed the Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to ensure that water supplied to slaughter houses is rationalised so that enough water is available for drinking. The bench further directed the Collectors in all the districts of Maharashtra to ensure that water reserved for drinking is not directed for other activities in view of the severe drought situation in the state.
The court also asked the government to ensure that a special ward is created in all the district hospitals for treatment of people hit by heat strokes.
The judges further directed the district Collectors and the state government to ensure that water is not supplied for construction activities in drought-hit areas, and that priority is given to supply of drinking water to the people.
The court also held that if any hospital needs water for performing surgeries, then it should apply to the district Collectors in their respective areas and asked the latter to consider their plea seriously and on a war-footing.
Maharashtra's Acting Advocate General Rohit Deo today said in the HC that the government is currently supplying potable water to people in drought-hit areas through tankers.
The government has also organised cattle camps in various drought-hit areas so that animals get water. Under the'Jalyukta Shivar' scheme of the government, ponds are dug up to store water, he said.
The state government had earlier informed the high court in an affidavit that it would declare drought in over 29,000 villages in the state and all relief prescribed in the Drought Manual-2009 would be provided.
The affidavit also said that the government was strictly implementing various schemes and taking various measures to mitigate the water scarcity in drought-hit areas and more particularly in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions.
Subsequently, the government had declared drought in over 29,000 villages of the state.
Also, the high court had earlier ordered shifting IPL matches out of Maharashtra due to severe drought, while hearing some PILs.