Forty-year-old Sunita Yadav, a resident of Kamani in Bhopar village, walks for more than half-a-kilometre to a well daily to fill water for her daily chores. She has four children and has to take all of them along with the utensils to fill water.
There is a quarry in between the well and her house, where people wash clothes or bathe, but she avoids the quarry as her children are with her.
“I fill buckets of water and come home to wash clothes. The quarry is near the house. However, I choose to avoid it. The well also dries up at times. So, it’s not every day that we are guaranteed enough water. We also have to purchase drinking water. This is how we survive every summer.”
This is not just Yadav’s story but also of most people in the 27 villages in Kalyan and Dombivli. The Deslepada village in Dombivli located 23km away from Thane, although a village on record, has undergone a massive facelift with plush residential complexes, concrete roads and commercial establishments. Ironically, though, this is the same village where five people of a family drowned in a quarry when they went to fill water, as the people here do not have this basic requirement.
Scenes of tankers supplying water, residents carrying bottled water, women walking for long distances in search of water in wells and quarries and women carrying pots of water on their heads are common every summer.
“The buildings do have water connection. However, the supply is very less. Once a week or once in four weeks, water is supplied. Buying water is a task as the tankers are not easily available and bookings are needed to be made in advance,” said Akash Desle, 49, a resident of Deslepada.
The drowning of two women and three teenagers here has brought the acute water crisis to the fore.
The village sarpanch, Suresh Gaikwad, who lost his family members said, “The authorities should take this incident as a lesson and take measures for the future generations so that such mishaps are not repeated.”
The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) provides 60MLD of water to the KDMC for these 27 villages that have a population of around three lakh. The water supply is carried out by the KDMC through two inch pipes.
Desle added, “Earlier, when the villages were added to KDMC in 2015, the water supply was adequate later. As years passed, the supply was affected and now, we hardly get water. The struggle is never ending. We need a dedicated water distribution network to these villages.”
The Bhongale family, which stays in a chawl in Kamani in Bhopar village near a quarry and has a small general store, spends around ₹5,000- ₹6,000 on bottled water every month. For at least eight days now, the family claimed the drinking water was not supplied.
“Even when there is supply, the pressure is too low. The authorities say the water supply is for one hour. However, the water supplied is for just 15 minutes and that too at low pressure. We have to purchase water for drinking. Sometimes, the same water is used for cleaning utensils and clothes,” said Dilip Bhongale, 60, the family head.
Shobha Gauda, 74, a resident of Govardhan Dham building, Deslepada, added, “There is no water in our taps for the last four days. We are calling the tankers. But, those too don’t turn up since there is a long queue. We buy water bottles for drinking water while all the other household chores are held up.”
As a part of immediate relief for the residents of Deslepada, Sandap, Nandap and Bhopar villages, the KDMC has decided to install 5,000-10,000 litre water tanks in which the quarry water will be filled and can be used for washing clothes and other purposes.
The civic body has even asked for additional 15MLD of water for the villages and decided to provide more water tankers in these areas. To ensure that there are no tragic deaths in quarries, lifeguards would be deployed.
Kiran Waghmare, executive engineer, KDMC, said, “We have made a proposal for all these works to be implemented at the earliest. Right now, we have increased the number of water tankers to the affected areas with additional two to three tankers. A total of 17 tankers are sent to these villages daily for water supply.”
Ramesh Patil, executive engineer, MIDC Dombivli, said, “The decision to provide additional water supply for the villages will be made by the higher authorities of the irrigation department. We will follow this up from our side on a regular basis so that the additional water supply is sanctioned for the villages.”
KDMC water scheme to be completed by 2023
The ₹194.20Cr Amrut Scheme, which is being implemented through cost sharing between KDMC, Maharashtra State Government and Central Government, was sanctioned for KDMC in 2018. However, the tender process took time and the work order was given in September 2021. A KDMC official said, “In this scheme, a 13km-long main pipeline will be developed, out of which work on 8km is completed. Through this main pipeline, there will be 225km pipelines that will supply water to these villages. Only 60km of work on these pipelines is completed. The civic body expects to complete the work by December 2023.”