The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to relocate six villages with 430 families for a proposed dam on Gargai river in Wada taluka in Palghar district.
The Gargai dam is the first of three proposed dams in Palghar, aimed at providing potable water to Mumbai and bridging the gap between demand and supply. The other two are Pinjal and Damanganga.
According to the BMC, the current difference between water supply and demand in Mumbai is 600 MLD (millions of litre per day). The Gargai and Pinjal dams were part of the five dams proposed by the Chitale committee in 1992 to fulfil the water requirements of the growing city. We started work on the Gargai dam on priority in 2017, said an official from the water supply department of the civic body.
Sources said the dam will have a proposed capacity of 6.11 TMC (thousand million cubic feet), smaller than the Dhamani dam, presently the biggest in Palghar with a capacity of 10 TMC.
The dam, officials said, was expected to be built within the next five years over 855 hectares in Palghar. Land acquisition in villages that will be affected is yet to start.
There is communication with the BMC. However, the official paperwork isn t over yet. They are going to relocate six villages out of the forest area, close to Wada taluka office, said Palghar Collector Kailash Shinde.
Ongda, Khodala, Tilmal, Pachghar, Amle and Phanasgaon are the six villages that we are relocating on our cost. A job for one person in all the 426 families in MCGM and land for landowners, landholders of forest pattas and the landless is being promised. We are bringing them closer to the city by over 19 km, a senior BMC official said.
Bordered by Ongda, Phanasgaon and Amle, the river flows through uncharted greens and many forest streams join it. We go to the river to fish. The forest acts as a curtain between us and the river, said Ganesh Shenge (54), a resident of Ongda village that hardly some metres away from the proposed site.
His son, 19-year-old son Nitin, is excited about the upcoming dam. They have assured us jobs. I left college because travelling to and from Wada was tiring. After relocation, I might join again, he said.
Not everyone is as excited. Ganpat Korade (70), a retired police patil from the same village, said, The forest and the land we have cultivated for generations is all we know. Now we are asked to give it up. The house and land promised in Wada is too little. Why should we move and for what? The dam is not going to benefit us in the summer months. At least we are at home here.
Dilip Kagde, a resident of Khodala village, said, We will ask for better options when the final agreement takes place. If they will not promise us a better life, we will not leave. However, it is in the future, as nothing concrete is happening here.
While no construction has begun yet, teams of BMC officials have been frequenting the spots, doing surveys. We want the dam to be as ecologically sustainable as possible. It will be a state-of-the-art construction, said a junior officer visiting the site.
The dam will also take up 563 hectares of the Tansa forest range. We are mindful of the ecological balance. The biopersity study has shown positive outcomes for our dam. We are just waiting for the final from the central and state departments, a BMC official said.
Environmental activists are gearing up for a new challenge. Any project that is invading the forest area has to be dealt with critically. We are waiting to see if the government bodies send their approval or ask for changes. We are not against development, but at what cost, said Amit Mandre, an environmentalist from Palghar.
The design of the dam is also awaiting approval from the designing authorities in Nashik. The recent discovery of a fault line in the nearby area has necessitated an earthquake study for the Central Water Commission s approval.
We have sent in all the paperwork. As soon as the approvals come, we need to start working on opening the tenders. We are looking at a deadline for that in March 2020, the official said.
The water supply department has also begun work on the second dam, Pinjal. A third dam, the Damanganga, is part of a water sharing project between Maharashtra and Gujarat and is at a nascent state, officials said.