by Akhilesh K Prasad
Starting 15th November, Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cut water supplies of the city by 10%. In a statement earlier, BMC said that this cut will stand till the next monsoons. According to reports, BMC has been compelled to take this step as they have 15% lesser water stock as compared to the corresponding period in the last year. This is a consequence of less than expected rain in the months of August and September this year, as compared to June and July. The water cut applies to all entities; residential, commercial or other establishments.
It is noteworthy here that BMC supplies 3800 million litres of water to Mumbai, which is already lower than the corresponding demand of 4200 million litres. After the announced cut of 10%, the supply has been further reduced to 3420 million litres.
Five out of seven lakes that supply water to Mumbai are controlled by BMC. These are; Modak Sagar, Tansa lake, Vehar lake, Tulsi lake and Middle Vaitarna lake. Bhatsa and Upper Vaitarna lake are controlled by the state government.
Quoting an engineer of the hydraulic department of BMc, a PTI report has stated that the seven lakes have 1,111,385 million litres of water on November 11. The current stock was expected to last for 292 days. In the corresponding period last year, the lakes were 92% full and had 1,333,522 million litres of water.
Such water cuts are, however, not new to the city. In 2015 a 25% cut was imposed. In 2014, it was 15% and in 2009 it went up to 20-30%.
One of the biggest challenges before the BMC has been that about 24% of the total water supply in Mumbai is not tracked by devices such as water meters. To put it in perspective, the national average is about 15%. The apparent loss is due to illegal connections, water theft and metering inaccuracies. The untracked water is not revenue generating and has proved a bane to the efficiency of water supply in Mumbai. This year, around 24,654 leaks were detected in different parts of the city, less than 34,390 leaks found and plugged last year.
While authorities insist that Mumbai has not yet reached a state of crisis, they do agree that the water supply in the city is stressed. The risk, for the time being, has been transferred to tribals from whose areas, some even 100 kilometres away, the city is getting water. Instead of disciplining the supply, sourcing and distribution, the government has taken the easier way out by damming rivers. That, however, is not an ecologically sound.
In its latest Mumbai Development Plan 2034, the Maharashtra government is seeking to increase the floor space index, or the extent of development on a piece of land, for both commercial and residential purposes. However, there cannot be sustainable development without leaving room for water bodies.
That said, Mumbaikars too need to understand that the need to conserve water and use it judiciously. Else, there is every possibility that the city is going the Cape Town way.
An MBA by qualification, Akhilesh has dabbled into various businesses. He is a keen debater, data miner and analytically inclined. His blogs tend to present a fresh perspective on any given matter