"Water management in Mumbai: Prospects and challenges" - Videos from a round table organised by Observer Research Foundation

These videos from a round table organised by Observer Research Foundation deal with the issue of water management in Mumbai.

These four films include details of speeches made by the Municipal Commissioner of Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mr Swadhin Kshatriya, who delivered a valedictory speech and Mr Sandeep Acharya, senior journalist from Loksatta, who expressed his views on the water crisis in Mumbai, as a part of a round table organised by Observer Research Foundation (ORF), on "Water management in Mumbai: Prospects and challenges", on the 10th of January 2010.

Valedictory speech by Mr Swadhin Kshatriya, Municipal Commissioner, BMC

The Municipal Commissioner of BMC started his speech by acknowledging the drinking water scarcity in Mumbai and dwelt on the questions like:

  • What can be the solution to the problem?
  • What are the alternatives available?
  • How long are we going to depend on conventional sources?

Importance of conventional sources of water

He started the discussion by saying that conventional sources of water were also important and needed to be studied in much more detail. For example, dams, reservoirs were engineering marvels, which needed to be studied and understood. However, they were proving to be inadequate due to less rains leading to decrease in storage levels thus creating a crisis-like situation.

Solutions were being contemplated in this context and recommendations from the Chitale committee were being looked into, thus focusing on middle Vaitarna project, which could yield additional amount of water. In addition, two more dams were being recommended and plans were being made to start work on the Gargai and Pinjar dams. These three would help in taking care of water supply requirements.

The need to explore multiple options

However, the other question that arose was that how much could one depend on rainwater, when monsoons were getting delayed. In such cases, what were the alternatives available? It was important to follow the integrated approach with multiple options. Recycling was one of the options that was being thought over. Desalination as one of the options for procuring water was also being looked upon since Mumbai had vast sea water reserves. Cost was an important issue, but if technology was available and began to be used, that would gradually decrease the cost as has been seen in the case of other technologies.

The government was also contemplating bringing eco-housing laws with effect from 1st April 2011, where emphasis would be placed on rainwater harvesting, economical use of electricity, planting of trees etc. The other issue was the excessive use of groundwater in the city. There is a limit on how much groundwater could be used and exhausted. It was also been found that digging too deep could lead to increase in water salinity. It was thus necessary to focus on other options such as dams, rainwater harvesting, recycling etc.

Wastage of water due to leakages

The other very important issue in the city was loss and wastage of water due to leakages, which needed to be brought down. The Singapore model was the best in this respect. In India, estimated leakages came to around 20-25%, which needed to be brought down to less than 5%. This is challenging and needs involvement from all the sections of the society.

Importance of maintaining water supply to Mumbai

At the same time, it was important to maintain a water supply 2,900 MLD per day to Mumbai and efforts had to be made by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation that the figure does not go below this level. Secondly, how to distribute water equally was a challenge that had to be addressed. He ended his speech by referring to the plan by ORF to take up a study on Mumbai water supply and said that such a study was welcome.

View part 1 of this speech below :

Part 2 of this speech can be viewed at this link.
Speech by Mr Sandeep Acharya, senior journalist from Loksatta
Challenges faced by the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation

Sandeep Acharya started his speech by highlighting the challenges faced by the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation and congratulating the Corporation, which he emphasised has been dealing with the complicated task of providing water to the city of Mumbai, which is increasingly facing the problem of the rising populations, and has been struggling to supply water to the different sections of the population.

He highlighted that many NGOs, international organisations such as the World Bank might not be able to deal with these issues, but employees from the corporation were talented people, having thorough knowledge of the city of Mumbai. At present the city of Mumbai had 3 lakh 25 thousand connections, with Kurla alone having 18,000 connections.

Rather than criticising the Corporation, what was important was to empower and strengthen the Corporation further by employing new people, conducting training programmes for the employees. The Mumbai Municipal Corporation indeed did have many efficient people and what was important was to give them more power, and to ask them to form a committee to solve the present crisis.

Need to empower the corporation

He highlighted the fact that there was no need to call an external agency such as the World Bank to solve the water problem of Mumbai. The Corporation had efficient and knowledgeable enough people who knew the intricacies of the water supply to the city. Rather than spending money and resources on external agencies, what was urgent was to strengthen and empower the Corporation. He had spent around 18 years covering news about the Corporation and knew that they were extremely capable people.

He further commented on the solutions proposed to solve the water crisis by raising the question as to who was to save water, who wasted water? The slogans of save water directed at the middle class were irrelevant as the problem of water had to do with the increasing population in Mumbai and the further regularisation of illegal settlements, which increased the burden on the already burdened Corporation to supply water to the ever expanding population.

He argued that the middle classes who spent very little time at home, and more at work and did not really have time to waste water. Rather it was the middle class who was increasingly getting burdened by tax, while the regularised slum settlements did not have to pay taxes. He also highlighted the fact that companies, industries could be monitored and tax procured from them. At the same time, leakages and stealing of water needed to be controlled urgently.

Water problems in Mumbai due to rising populations and associated problems such as stealing of water and leakages

He ended his speech by arguing that the water problem in Mumbai basically had to do with the population increase and other problems related to stealing of water, which were an outcome of illegal settlements trying to procure water. The solutions to the water crisis could be dealt at three levels:

  • Empowering, training and strengthening the existing corporation
  • Forming a core committee in the corporation to deal and find solutions to the crisis
  • Decrease slums
  • Organisations such as ORF must create pressure groups to prevent slums, random giving of FSIs for constructions without a thought to urban planning
View part 1 of this speech below:

Part 2 of this speech can viewed at this link.
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