Mumbai will witness at least one IPL match, and it will be the opening game tomorrow, no less. However, the Bombay High Court came down heavily on the cricket authorities for trying to justify the use of lakhs of litres of water to maintain the pitches at a time when the state is reeling under drought.

Groundsmen water the pitch at the Wankhede stadium on Wednesday. The opening match will be held here this weekend. Pic/PTI
Groundsmen water the pitch at the Wankhede stadium on Wednesday. The opening match will be held here this weekend. Pic/PTI

The HC bench, comprising justices VM Kanade and MS Karnik, was hearing a PIL by the Loksatta Movement, demanding that IPL matches be shifted out of Maharashtra to avoid wastage of water. The court has permitted the cricket authorities to host the opening match (Mumbai Indians vs Rising Pune Supergiants) at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, but also questioned from where it was getting water supply.

Senior counsel for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Rafique Dada told the bench that other sports venues like golf clubs and turf clubs also require water. “If water is not supplied to pitches, they will die,” he said.

To this, Justice Kanade replied, “Here, people and cattle are dying due to unavailability of water, and you are concerned about gardens and pitches. Who will use them? We are sorry if you have this view, we differ on it.”

The BCCI counsel told the court that the use of water to prepare the pitches had already been stopped at the stadium. “We initially pour water on pitches and grass but stop 24 hours before the match as wet pitches can’t be used to play.”

The state’s Acting Advocate General Rohit Deo was also present yesterday, and he told the bench that BMC was supplying 22,000 litres of water per day to Wankhede Stadium and the water supply had been further reduced by 8 per cent due to water scarcity. Then Justice Kanade pointed out: “We are not staying the first match but we want to know from where the water is coming to Wankhede Stadium, as only around 22,000 litres of water is supplied daily by the BMC. The state should inquire whether there is a water mafia lobby operating. The state should submit a report to the court by Tuesday on the same.”

On the same day, ie April 12, the court will decide the fate of the other matches slated to be played in Maharashtra. In the previous hearing, the lawyer for the Mumbai Cricket Association had said that the pitches were being watered with non-potable water ferried by tankers. The court desired to know the source of this supply.

BCCI counsel Dada pointed out that the petitioner had purposely filed the petition late to create a loss for the organisers. “We accept your argument, but the issue raised by them is very large,” observed Justice Kanade. The bench also turned its gaze to other large events such as weddings and gala ceremonies that guzzle water and said the time has come to keep tabs on such usage.