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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BMC finally admits city is not getting the water it needs

Mumbai: When Andheri (E) residents last week used the polls to highlight their water woes, they did a big favour to the rest of Mumbai. The BMC, which had been denying a citywide water shortage for the past seven months, finally admitted that the city was not getting enough water.
    However, the civic body is unable to put a figure to the shortage. It also says that it is yet to get to the root of the problem. “After several months of investigation, we can now say that Mumbai is not getting what we thought we were getting from the lakes. But we are not in a position to say how much less,’’ said Pramod Charankar, deputy municipal commissioner in charge of water supply projects.
    Mumbai gets 3,450 million litres a day (MLD) from six lakes, of which 20% is officially accepted as lost due to pilferage and leakage.
    Charankar is quick to point out that there is more water in the lakes now than at the same time last year. The problem, according to him, lies somewhere between the lakes and the taps.
    The hydraulics department realised that Mumbai was not getting the amount of water it was supposed to get when three of the 11 pumps for the master balancing reservoir (MBR) were not being used. “The Bhandup water complex is supposed to get around 2,100 MLD. Water is first brought to the treatment plant. Then, using 11 pumps, it is pumped into the MBR. For the past few months, we have been using only eight of the 11 pumps. This is a clear indication that the entire quota is not reaching the Bhandup complex,’’ he said.
    A major part of the city’s water supply system works on gravity. For this to work, water has to reach a certain height within the MBR and other smaller reservoirs and then flow into the distribution network. However, for the last seven months, the water flow has not been reaching the optimal level in the MBR as well as the service reservoirs.
    As water does not reach the required level in reservoirs at Malabar Hill, Trombay, Bhandarwada, Veravali and Malad, residents of areas, which are at the extreme end of the distribution network beginning from these reservoirs, are facing a severe water shortage.
    To add to this, Charankar said, there was also a “hydraulic problem’’ in the supply of 1,100 MLD of water from Bhatsa lake.
    The water from Bhatsa is treated at the Pise-Panjrapole treatment plant before being brought into the city. A major part of this treated water goes to service reservoirs such as Trombay, Ghatkopar and Bhandarwada while the rest is directly distributed in areas such as Mahim, Matunga, Dadar, Worli, Prabhadevi and Parel.
    “Investigations are being conducted by the hydraulic department to understand why less water is coming into the system,’’ said Charankar. He, however, refused to put a figure on how much of the supply had been affected.
    While civic commissioner Jairaj Phatak has maintained that there is no problem, the administrators say it is a localised problem and not a crisis. Last week, Phatak said there was enough water in the lakes and claimed that the amount was double than last year. He also said there would be no water cuts this summer.
    But on Tuesday, Phatak said, “It is true that there is less water coming from the lakes to the Bhandup water complex. This is because the pipelines are inadequate and there are some machine problems.’’
    Despite Charankar’s admission, he was unwilling to call it a shortage. “If the supply is 3,300-3,400 MLD, we do not consider it a shortage,’’ he said.





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