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Mumbai: City’s water woes to last for at least next three years

Updated on: 03 June,2023 07:30 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prajakta Kasale |

Delays in Manori desalination plant and Gargai Dam projects, which would have increased supply by 20 per cent, caused by many hurdles

Mumbai: City’s water woes to last for at least next three years

A woman fills buckets at her home in view of water cut in Ambawadi, Dahisar. File pic/Nimesh Dave

Over the past decade, Mumbai has faced water cuts five times, including two year-long ones. It is bracing for water cut this year, too, with the stock down to 12 per cent. Two projects—Manori desalination plant and Gargai dam—that could have given the city 20 per cent more water are nowhere close to taking off even several years after being proposed. But, BMC officials are hoping the Manori plant will be ready in the next three years if all goes to plan. 

Even as the BMC is trying to dip into the state’s reserves to keep the city’s supply at 100 per cent, a permanent solution looks like a pipe dream. Two proposed projects—Manori desalination plant and Gargai dam—were to increase the city’s supply by 20 per cent.

Progress in a month, maybe

The Manori desalination plant, which had picked up pace under the previous government, was put on the back burner when the Shinde-Fadnavis alliance took charge last June. When ready, the plant is estimated to add 200 million litres of potable water to the city’s daily supply. The capacity can be increased to 400 million litres a day gradually.

An elderly woman stores water in view of the water cut, in Ambawadi area of Dahisar East. File pic/Nimesh DaveAn elderly woman stores water in view of the water cut, in Ambawadi area of Dahisar East. File pic/Nimesh Dave

The BMC in February 2021 appointed an Israeli company to prepare a detailed proposal. In January 2022, the corporation engaged SMEC India to evaluate the study and designs prepared by the Israeli firm. According to a civic official, the consultant approved the study and designs in November, but the project is yet to take off.

“It may take another month to float the tenders, and the completion of the project will take at least three years if everything goes according to the plan,” said an official from the water supply project department. 

The city receives an average of 3,850 million litre of water per day from seven lakes out of which five are on the outskirts of the city. The average supply hasn’t changed in the past 10 years. Since the construction and commission of the last reservoir, Middle Vaitarna dam, in March 2014, no new projects to meet the city’s increasing demand have been started.

Gargai needs clearances

To build the Gargai dam, which can provide an additional 440 million litre of water to the city daily, over 4 lakh trees across 700 hectares of Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary need to be uprooted.  

The project requires two crucial permissions from the Union forest and environment ministry as it is inside a wildlife sanctuary, said the BMC official.

Meanwhile, officials are simultaneously working on the detailed report of the project and on the people it will impact, the official said. Once all the permissions have been received, the project can be completed in at least four years, the official added.

There is a third project on Daman Ganga river, but only on paper since the past decade.

In the 2023-24 budget, the BMC once again allocated Rs 200 crore for the desalination project, but did not set any deadline for its completion. 

The BMC mentioned Gargai and Daman Ganga project costs (Rs 3,500 crore) in its ambitious projects list, but made no separate provisions for these.

Shortages and water cuts since 2014

2022  10% water cut from June 28 to July 12, as stock dipped to 9% due to delayed monsoon
2020  10% water cut from August 5 to 29 due to poor rainfall
2018-2019  10% water cut from November 14, 2018, to July 2019
2015-2016  20% water cut imposed in July and continued until the next monsoon
2014  20% water cut from July to September

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