People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 28, 2006
Struggle For An Equal and Justified Share
In Water and Development
ON May 16, 2006 people from 84 villages walked about 25 kms distance in a long march, which took place covering rural Bhiwandi and Shahapur taluka of Thane district & converged into open meeting in front of office of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). This march was organised by CPI(M) and mass organisations of Thane district. Several demands on the question of land, water, employment and development were raised. But the water problem was the main issue under discussion. The march was attended by 1000 participants; around ten thousand pamphlets were distributed in 91 villages with 3-day jeep jathas before the march. A memorandum was submitted to the executive engineer shri Guhe of MCGM. A delegation was led by veteran leader and CPI(M) Central Committee member Prabhakar Sazgiri and included Raju Paranjpee, Subas Samant, P B Chavan, Suman Sazgiri, Rajaram Ozare (MLA) all state committee members and Baliram Choudhary, Haribhay Vartha, Shankar Bhir from the Thane district committee.
Urbanisation, uneven population growth
And requirement of water
After independence, the policies of the successive governments at centre and the state geared up the process of urbanisation. Centres like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata developed as big cities attracting people from the other parts of the states. Mumbai, also known as economic capital of India is a mega metropolitan city having a population of around one crore nineteen lakhs in the year 2001. MCGM is the local government public body developing the necessary infrastructure for the industries and commerce, besides providing amenities like potable water, sewerage transport, electricity and other concerned activities. The increase in population every year is a matter of concern that has to be dealt. Providing potable water for a 1.20 crore huge population of Mumbai, according to current norms in the urban areas, 90 litres per person per day is the assured quantity required to be supplied by the MCGM. But being an island, Mumbai city has very limited sources of water of its own. Right from British times water had been drawn from nearest Thane district. British people constructed a dam wall and formed Tansa lake about 110 years ago in Thane district. They started getting gravity supply through the pipelines laid for about 60 kms length. As population in Mumbai increased, the quantity of water supply required increased and was supplied from Thane district.
In 1971, the population of Mumbai was 59.71 lakh. In 1991 it reached to 99.26 lakh and in the year 2001 it reached 119.14 lakh. It means from 1971 to 2001, in thirty years period Mumbai’s population growth doubled. The government of Maharashtra then set up Dr Chitale committee for suggesting expert opinion to arrange water supply for the people of Mumbai. The committee recommended construction of additional dams in Thane district and draw water from these dams.
While Mumbai’s population was growing, the population in Thane district especially in the urban areas adjacent to Mumbai was also increasing. In 1971 the population in Thane district was 22.81 lakhs; in 1991 it reached 52.49 lakhs and in the year 2001 it reached 81.28 lakhs. The population growth in last 30 years was almost 3-5 times in Thane district as compared to twice in Mumbai. Out of these 81.28 lakhs, urban population figure is almost 55 lakhs in Thane district, which is equal to the population figure of Mumbai in 1971. The increase in population both in Mumbai and Thane district includes natural growth plus migrated growth. The water shortage became acute. Thane’s water requirements increased. But a major share of Thane’s water is supplied to Mumbai. The population of Thane district is deprived of getting ample water quantity. The pattern of urbanisation adopted by the government is fast but unequal.
Utilisation of water resources
From Thane district and its impacts
Besides Tulsi Lake and Vihar lake of Mumbai, there are three major projects supplying water to Mumbai from Thane district, namely Tansa lake, Modaksagar and Bhatsa dam. MCGM laid pipelines, which draw water from the above projects. Apart from Tansa lake, other projects were constructed after independence. But some of the project-affected families are still not rehabilitated. They did not get PAP certificates and they lost their land at very cheap compensation. A number of adivasis who had no recorded land on their names but who had forest plots had been evacuated without compensation and rehabilitation.
A white paper of Maharashtra government on drinking water supply clearly points out that wherever villages rest in the vicinity of 5 kms from the boundaries of the area of municipal corporation it shall provide direct connections to these villages, but no direct tap connection has been provided.
However, in 1996 a separate water supply scheme for drawing water from two places and providing network of separate water tanks to the villages has been implemented by the Maharashtra water supply department with the help of world Bank. But due to technical failure, some of the villages are not getting a drop of water. But Mumbai corporation is expecting water charges from these villagers via panchayat samitis. But those who are not getting water will not be ready to pay and finally Mumbai corporation served notices and stopped the water supply in 1999 and for three months nobody was in a position to get even a drop of water from the scheme.
Natural resources water and
Demand for equal and justified right on it
In the year 1999, when water supply was cruelly stopped by MCGM, the CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha of Thane district formed ‘Shahapur Bhiwandi Gramin Vikas Sangh Samiti’s’ and studied the matter in detail. It was found that as per 1961-Maharashtra zilla parishad panchayat samiti notification no- 146 and 1871 Mumbai irrigation notification – a cess of 20 paise per rupee has to be paid by Mumbai corporation to Thane zilla Parishad for procuring water from it. This amount was not paid by MCGM. After detailed calculation, it showed that MCGM actually owed Rs 5 crores to Thane. When this anomaly was pointed out alongwith agitations, rasta rooks, MCGM restarted the water supply, which was stopped for three months.
As per records of Maharashtra state government in year 1999, Mumbai and Pune corporations were getting net profit on their water supply schemes. This amount was Rs 262 crores and Rs 132 crores per year as a net profit after selling water a natural resource, taken from Thane district. CPI(M) demanded that a share of this net profit shall be given to the revenue of the Thane district as an equal and justified share of its natural resource of water. If this share is given to the revenue of Thane district then it can be utilised for development of affected areas. In Thane zilla parishad, a resolution to this effect was handed over by Rajaram ozara (Z P member at that time and MLA at present) to chairman shri Kisan Kathare, who placed the resolution and was passed in ZP unanimously. However till today nothing has been done by the MCGM or by the state government. CPI(M) and mass organisations started agitation for this long pending demands and other demands.
ANOTHER PROJECT STARTED
Now, as per Dr Chitale committee report, another project middle Vaitarna dam was started by MCGM last year. CPI(M) and mass organisations of Thane district maintained that water must be supplied for the urban and rural areas of Thane district on priority basis and then remaining shall be taken by MCGM Project. There is no reluctance to provide additional water to Mumbai later.
Party congress’s guideline a key
To streamline work
Following the party congress’s guideline of “Developing struggles and sustaining then on partial demands – this is one of the key aspects of independent activity, where such struggles are conducted by the class or mass organisations, the party committees must study the conditions of the people and formulate demands based on the concrete situation”, the Thane district committee of the party is championing the cause of water shortage in Thane.