Mumbai: Gorai village in Malad pays for water they don't get; run dry since 2009

Updated: May 26, 2019, 07:27 IST | Diwakar Sharma and Samiullah Khan | Mumbai

Taps in several homes in Gorai have run dry since 2009, but the BMC continues to levy water tax

Villagers from Gorai seen taking empting water cans on their two-wheelers to fill drinking water from areas nearby. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Villagers from Gorai seen taking empting water cans on their two-wheelers to fill drinking water from areas nearby. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

For the last 10 years, the residents of Gorai village, Malad, have been fighting to salvage the parched taps in their homes. Despite having a pipeline connection and paying water tax every month, thousands of residents have to travel nearly 5 to 7 km daily to procure drinking water from neighbouring areas. Residents claim that the BMC, which is aware of the situation, has turned a blind eye towards their cause.

A pipeline without water
According to the villagers, the pipeline, which was laid down by ONGC in early 2000, after the intervention of then Union Petroleum Minister Ram Naik, supplied water for a few years. But due to rampant development in and around Gorai village, which has a population of around 15,000, water from the pipeline also started being distributed to the nearby areas. By 2009, many homes in the village stopped receiving water.

Villagers from Gorai seen taking empting water cans on their two-wheelers to fill drinking water from areas nearby. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Royston Godinho, 53, the deputy sarpanch of Gorai Gaothan Panchayat, who lives in the Vairala zone of Gorai village, said that while he got a water connection in his home in 2005, the supply stopped a few years later.

"I made several complaints to the BMC, but they have not taken any action till date," said Godinho, adding, "The BMC officials have told us that their hands are tied, as the number of consumers have increased in the recent past." Rossi D'souza, sarpanch of the Gorai Gaothan Panchayat, who has also been campaigning for the cause, said that the BMC claimed that since "Gorai village is situated at an altitude, water isn't reaching the taps in the homes".

Royston Godinho, deputy sarpanch of Gorai Gaothan Panchayat
Royston Godinho, deputy sarpanch of Gorai Gaothan Panchayat

'BMC threatening us'
This hasn't stopped the BMC from charging the hefty water tax of Rs 250 per month. Many residents like Sylvester Paul Murzello, however, have decided against paying. BMC officials recently visited his home and asked him to cough up the outstanding tax of Rs 14,000. "They even threatened to disconnect the line," said Murzello, who is a senior citizen. Another resident, Lourdes D'souza, 54, who like Murzello refused to pay the water tax, said, "Till March 28, our outstanding bill was Rs 1.64 lakh. Only recently, they slapped me with another water bill of Rs 1.78 lakh. But why should I pay, when water is not being supplied to my house?" she asked.

Not everyone, though, has been able to fight this battle head-on. Several residents have been paying the bills quietly, worried that the BMC will disconnect their line.

Recently, 62-year-old resident Norbert Johnny Kinny of Shefali zone paid Rs 4,000 to the BMC. "I have filed many complaints with the BMC. I am a senior citizen and it gets very difficult for me to travel from Gorai to the BMC headquarters in CST," he said.

Lourdes D'souza, resident
Lourdes D'souza, resident

To meet the water crisis, the villagers have made alternate arrangements by digging a borewell nearby to procure water to wash dishes, take bath and water the trees. "But we cannot use this water for drinking," said the sarpanch.

Another resident, Annie Henriques, 53, has been getting her supply of drinking water from Uttan Dongri, close to Bhayandar, where her mother lives. "I leave the water cans at my mother's house and when, my brother fills them up, we bring the cans back on our Scooty," said Henriques, who has to travel 7 km for this.

Meanwhile, residents from the neighbouring villages have decided not to get a water connection from the BMC. "I have seen villagers from Gorai suffer. I am a farmer. If the BMC issues a fake water bill, how will I get it rectified? It's better not to take a water connection," said 41-year-old Hillary Murzello.

What next?
D'Souza said that members of the panchayat recently suggested the BMC to install a huge water tank at St John Cross junction and use a booster pump to generate pressure to distribute water to the village. "But they paid no heed to it," he said.

Lourdes said that the BMC had conducted a survey in 2013 in Vairali, Pakhadi and Shefali zones, and the report was tabled in a BMC meeting. "Officials also visited our homes, but no action has been taken."

Due to the crisis, water thefts have also increased in the recent past. "Several resorts along the pipelines in Gorai have punctured the main line, but the BMC is yet to take any action against them."

When contacted, AN Ghadge, assistant engineer (water department), R Central at BMC's ward office in Borivli, said that the villagers were lying about not receiving water. "Four months ago, we laid down a separate 5 km-long pipeline for the villagers. The water problem was resolved to a large extent after that. The entire city is currently facing a 15 per cent water cut, and hence, the villagers are not receiving enough water. The situation will get better post monsoon."

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