“Rahul, paani chalaa jaayega…!”
Do you remember this advertisement..?? It was a soap ad- Le Sancy to be precise, which fyi went out of existence quite soon :P.. It is a about a boy who is having a bath with loud music on.. The water is running while he is dancing and rapping without a care.. While his mother is yelling at him to hurry as the water supply will stop shortly.. Well of course it does stop and he is left with soap lathered all over his face, and no means to remove it 😀 !!
Well this is a daily occurence in most Mumbai households (sans the music and dancing of course ;)). I’m talking about pathetic condition of the Mumbai water supply system..
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) supplies water to India’s financial capital for no more than six hours a day. Shanghai supplies water for 24 hours. Mumbai has enough water for its 14 million citizens, enough for a 24-hour supply. So say experts. So says the BMC. So says a World Bank study.
Yet, why does my mom yell at me every morning, “Get up early, get ready fast, hurry up the water will go soon! Fill the buckets! Don’t wash your hair!”??? 😛
So, if we have enough water, why don’t we get it?
Mumbai has enough water for a 24-hour supply but water gets wasted because there are too many leakages in the old pipe network. The amount of water Mumbai loses in 6-hour supply, Shanghai (the Chinese city which our politicians have taken as a model) loses the same in its 24-hour supply.
There are around 4,000 kms of leaky pipes, some of which are up to 80 years old. There is no underground map of the city’s water pipes and sewage system. Thus finding a leak is difficult. Also a lot of land has been encroached by slum-dwellers and repairs have thus been difficult because these people are not ready to co-operate.
This year the water crisis is at its extreme. Mumbai’s civic authorities have announced a 30% cut in the water supply due to a low rainfall this year in the the city. Officials said this was the highest cut the city had ever seen. The four reservoirs which provide water to the city have enough to last us only one more month (that’s it!! oh no :().
The BMC has not only reduced supply to the city’s residents, but has also restricted water to commercial establishments. Five-star hotels, clubs and municipal swimming pools will have a decreased supply of water, along with government offices and railway stations.
Compounding the plight is the rampant construction of skyscrapers and the indiscriminate use of transfer of development rights, which allows builders to construct additional floors on existing buildings in the suburbs. New buildings are also coming up at a fast pace and more water is needed. However the amount supplied to the area remains the same.
The consequence: both the elite and the slum dwellers are increasingly coming out to the streets to protest against the problem. Civilians and politicians alike are getting agitated and are rallying against the cuts.
Just last week, protester led by a Congress leader had gathered outside the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) headquarters in south Mumbai, and raised slogans against the recent water cuts. As the mob of angry protesters attempted to break the police barricades, the police used batons to disperse them. An injured protester was taken to the nearby hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead. Ten other protesters were also injured in the police caning and had to be admitted to local hospitals.
The government should realise that in times when the economy has taken a hit, inflation is on the rise affecting even the necessities, people- especially those living in a hand to mouth situation are severely affected. These people are helpless and will not be able to cope with one more adversity.
So what do you think is the solution? Well we can’t expect the authorities to sign a contract with Mr. Rain God, can we? That’s impossible and ludicrous, isn’t it :P? So then what?
- Most important, improve infrastructure. The slum-dwellers should be quickly rehabilitated. That will make repairs easier and ensure pipes don’t get damaged.
- Invest in technologically advanced equipment that will detect leaks.
- Map the city’s pipe and sewage lines for better approach.
- Initiate water harvesting awareness and help residents install these systems before the next monsoon.
- Create awareness regarding the problem and the importance of conserving water.
I am sure the civic authorities are doing their best regarding this problem. However their only drawback is speed and good technology :(. There are reports regarding ongoing constructions of around 4 dams- Middle Vaitarana, Gargai, Pinjal and Tansal to be completed within the years 2011 and 2021. They are also constructing tunnels instead of laying huge pipes to bring water from the dams into the city as these underground tunnels are low maintenance and cannot be encroached upon.
Well we’ll have to wait and see how the situation is resolved.. Till then let’s do our bit- conserve water, use exactly the amount that is needed and avoid unnecessary wastage :). We should realise that ultimately these efforts are solely for ourselves and our comfort.
Reference: The Hindustan Times and Google.