Here's how Mumbai's clubs are responding to water crisis

City’s tony recreational hubs respond to water crisis with a slew of measures

The city’s sports clubs and gymkhanas are in combat mode for battling the water crisis. The clubs (there are about 200 of these) are supplied an average of 10,000-20,000 litres of potable water by the BMC every day. In addition, most of them pay for between two to six tankers, a day. Without this, these recreational venues would have no functioning showers, toilets or kitchens; and their pitches would be unplayable.

Malabar Hill club Secretary Nitin Shah and Payal Kanojia point at a poster displaying the message. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Malabar Hill club Secretary Nitin Shah and Payal Kanojia point at a poster displaying the message. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Managing the shortage
Though the Goregaon Sports Club has a recycling plant on site, HR manager, Manoj Pillai says, “The cricket pitch is closed as the lawns are being watered sporadically. We have also cancelled summer swim camp for kids and adjusted taps to reduce water flow.”

At Bandra’s MIG club a source revealed they have similarly adjusted faucets, and the pool is now also being backwashed only once a week.

Jump to SoBo’s exclusive Bombay Gymkhana, which must contend not only with a pool that’s being backwashed and drained less frequently, a source there tells us attendants have been instructed to serve only half glasses of water. “Of course, guests may request more, but this prevents wastage,” says the source who also reveals that the water level is unusually low in the three (of six) Azad Maidan wells that the club controls. “A full-time plumber ensures there are no water leakages anywhere; recycled water is used for gardening and the ground is only being watered once a week, not everyday in a deviation from usual practice,” he adds.

Planning ahead
Only a handful of facilities seem to be trying to get in front of the problem though. Professor Sharad Chaphekar, who specialises in ecological restoration, lauds, in particular, the efforts of Brabourne Stadium. “Rain water is collected from the roof of the stands and channelised into underground tanks on the side of Brabourne stadium,” explains Chaphekar.

The National Sports Club of India (NSCI) Haji Ali had barred members from bringing guests for four days during the water tanker association strike. Water pressure has been reduced in the taps of the club that currently requires up to five tankers daily, and though the pool is open, it won’t be refilled until the water shortage has passed. They are also looking at installing a pool filtration plant that will hold water for up to five years, so the pool won’t have to be refilled as frequently.

The Malabar Hill Club’s Payal Kanojia, executive secretary to the club’s Hon. Secretary, Nitin L Shah, says, “Only one of three showers by the pool are operational at certain hours and the garden is watered with recycled water (from the steam room). The steam room’s timings have been curtailed, water conservation posters are displayed all over the club, and, the swimming pool timings have been curtailed, so showers are used less.”

In the saddle
Mahalaxmi’s Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) marketing and media chief, Vivek Jain says, “The club runs a gymnasium called Horsepower. We have disallowed the use of showers until further notice, and we water the lawns and tracks with the treated water from our on-site sewage treatment plant.”

On the back foot
A source at Navi Mumbai Sports Association in Vashi, says, “We have shut down our swimming pool on March 20. We will reopen when water is no longer scarce. We are purchasing construction water for maintaining our garden and pitches, not potable water. We have started using drip irrigation on our hedges and sprinklers are only being used when absolutely necessary. Notices have also been put up in the bathrooms reminding members to save water.”

No quick fix
Yet, “who really reads notices?” asks natural resource conservationist and Founder, Natural Solutions, Dr Ajit Gokhale, who strongly believes that clubs must take a long-term view. Rainwater harvesting, he believes, is the need of the hour. While most sports clubs seem to be doing what they can, one alarming response we received was from the Juhu Vile Parle Gymkhana (JVPG). Asked about how they’re coping with the water shortage, Damodar (who said he goes only by his first name), Manager, Sports said, “When there is a water shortage, we will put up a notice.”

His statement underscores Chaphekar’s belief that, more than anything, it is necessary to educate people about the water shortage. “Education is not an immediate solution but a permanent, sustainable one.”

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