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Gargai Dam Project: Mumbai's Water Solution Or Environmental Dilemma?

According to reports the city with over 12.5 million of the population requires around 4,200 million liters of water daily, on the contrary, the BMC supplies only 3,850 million liters of water per day

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Mumbai’s water scarcity is a new normal now and the scorching sun adds to the Mumbaikars' water struggle. The coastal city is touching the sky with its towering skyscrapers and the demand for water is increasing with time, yet ironically, the city with the richest civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has an annual budget higher than several Indian states, is hindered by water scarcity and has only seven different lakes and dams located in and around its periphery for its daily potable water supply.

For many Mumbaikars this year began with insufficient water supply, leaving them in distress to catch up with the city’s speed. Many pleaded, their taps ran dry, and this disrupted their routine. According to reports the city with over 12.5 million of the population requires around 4,200 million litres of water daily, on the contrary, the BMC supplies only 3,850 million litres of water per day. This creates ripples all-over Mumbai, along with the domestic households, the commercial and industrial sectors are also grinding in the water scarcity.

In a process to resolve Mumbai’s growing water needs, According to the Development Plan of Mumbai, 2034, BMC will build a network of four dams on the Gargai-Pinjal and Damanganga-Pinjal rivers, with two dams on each, a project that is likely to provide nearly 2,451 MLD of water in the coming years.

Now according to some latest reports, as BMC is all set to revive the Gargai dam project, Let's understand the project's highs and lows -

What Is Gargai Dam Project?

Gargai Dam Project is an ambitious project of Mumbai’s civic body, proposed to satisfy the present and near future drinking water requirements of the Mumbaikar. Conceived in 2015, the project was backed by the then Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, and was later halted by the previous State-Government, Maha-Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in the wake of saving a large number of trees as the project involved deforestation. According to some official reports, the project is estimated to have a total of 838.989 (ha.) of land.

General Details of Project

Below is the general detail of the project according to Form-A, for seeking prior approval from the Central Government under section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act,1980 for the Diversion of fresh forest area, FP/MH/WATER/31703/2018.

Category of the proposal: Drinking water

The shape of forest land proposed to be diverted: Nonlinear

The estimated cost of the project (Rupees in lakh): 1,82,000

Area of forest land proposed for diversion (in ha.): 657.959

Non-forest land required for this project (in ha.): 181.03

District involved: Palghar

Villages involved:  Ogada, Khodada, Pachghar, Tilmal, Fanasgaon, Suryamal, Kevnale, Ujjaini, Satronda, Varsale, Botishi, Parali, Aamle

Displacement of people due to the Project, if any:  618 scheduled tribe families

Why Was The Project Scrapped?

Under the previous State- Government, Maha-Vikas Aghadi (MVA) the project was scrapped around in December 2021, learning from the disastrous and life-threatening experiences of the two cyclones, Tauktae and Nisarga the BMC was instructed to halt the project ultimately saving lakhs of trees.

Commenting on the matter then, Cabinet Minister of Environment Aditya Thackeray in his tweet dated 11 December 2021 said, “The scrapping of Gargai Dam project will save 4.5 lakh trees, time, money, and energy, as we alternatively work on desalination. More so, it saves the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary and birds such as the Forest Owlet that are critically endangered”.

He added, “While we pitched for the desalination project, and I’m personally keen on it, it helps us achieve, Climate resilience: moving away from full monsoon-dependent water supply and Climate change mitigation: protecting a sanctuary from being destroyed for the same amount of water”.

Mumbaikars Voice On The Project’s Rekindle

Rajesh Rane a resident of Sewri, South Central Mumbai, a Social Activist and a Private Employee said, I am completely against the BMC’s decision to restart the Gargai dam project, yes, the project will solve our drinking water problem but what about the environmental damage, it will endanger the future of young Mumbaikar.

Jyotsna Vichare, a homemaker from Mumbai’s Western Suburbs, Kandivali said, good that the BMC is concerned over our water problems, I support the Gargai dam project and not the deforestation, but as the project involves falling of over four lakh trees, the centre should look for the solution.

Shradha Naringrekar from Lalbaug, a neighbourhood in South Mumbai stated, I am a working woman and the water supply in my area is for around two hours but starting from April we are facing water cuts and the water goes half an hour before, thus disturbs my routine and I find difficult to manage my office and home if Gargai dam is to solve our water problem, I support this project.

Pratiksha Phondake, homemaker, and a resident of Mumbai’s Malad western zone said, water is a must and if Gargai Dam is the solution for the water shortage I support the project, I am concerned about the deforestation and its future damage, but then the government should stop constructing new buildings that too involves cutting trees, the city doesn’t need more towers we need water.

Santosh Musale, an environmentalist, and a private employee residing in Mumbai’s Jogeshwari area said, I am a person who is concerned with protecting and preserving the natural environment, I strongly condemn the Gargai dam project.

 While the BMC has not yet officially declared about resuming the Gargai dam projects, given the unpredictable weather events and growing population, Mumbai needs a long-term plan for its water supply and if the city’s water problems are resolved without any environmental distress, then it's the biggest gift to the dream city that fulfils the desire of all.