It's an ironic situation in drought-hit Maharashtra. On the one hand, the state is grappling with its worst drought in four decades and on the other, it allows 3,324 million cubic metres (MCM) to go down the drain.
Water resources experts have expressed surprise that nearly 10 MCM of water is diverted and wasted daily from tanker-dependent pockets in Western Maharashtra which are reeling under drought. Dams and reservoirs are getting depleted. The Ujani dam in Solapur with 1,517 MCM storage is already left with zero storage.
Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People says that political heavyweights from Western Maharashtra should have stopped this wastage. “The state government should have done this on learning about the poor monsoon prediction," said Thakkar, adding that 2,800 MCM of water available in these dams can be conserved to tide over the current water crisis.
The state has three Tata-owned hydropower projects which collectively divert about 1,413 MCM of water a year from the region where the drought situation has been touted as being “much worse than 1972” by Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
The Koyna dam, which has the highest storage capacity at 2,836 MCM of all dams in the state, has five power generation plants. This dam diverts 1,911.4 MCM of water from Krishna basin annually.
The water available in live storage capacity of the dams is enough to provide 100 litres per capita per day for nearly 7crore people for an entire year. “Since the waters flow into the water-surplus Konkan region, which anyway gets excess rainfall of 3,000mm, this run-off into the sea is a colossal waste,” said Thakkar.
“At a time when there is talk of running water-tanker trains, shouldn't this option be explored?”
Chairperson of the National Alliance of People's Movement, Medha Patkar, said she is not surprised that the government is dragging its feet on this decision. “This will force a rethink on how water is managed... How long will there be resistance to such options in the face of water scarcity?” she asked.
A senior bureaucrat from the state ministry of water resources admitted on the condition of anonymity that this option had been mulled recently. “But, given our power deficit, the impact that this option will have on the power situation is such that it makes the option politically unattractive," admitted the bureaucrat. "Nobody would want more power cuts.”
State minister for water resources Sunil Tatkare refused to comment on the issue.