Pune Collector replaces district guardian minister as head of water panel

Ajay Jadhav
The PMC has been demanding allocation of 17 TMC (one thousand million cubic feet) of water, as against its usual quota of 11.5 TMC approved by the Irrigation department, to meet the increasing demands of the rapidly-expanding city.

All decisions on water supply in Pune city will be taken by a committee headed by District Collector Naval Kishore Ram, as the President’s Rule that recently came into effect in Maharashtra means there is no cabinet, and no minister, to head such committees.

Usually, the annual water management in each district is done by two committees — the allocation of water for non-agricultural activities is done by a committee headed by the guardian minister, while the district collector is a member-secretary in the panel, and the second canal committee, to decide water allocation for irrigation activities, is headed by the state irrigation minister or district guardian minister.

A government resolution issued on Wednesday stated, “President’s Rule has come into force in the state from Tuesday. Annual water management has to be done and it is necessary to appoint an appropriate authority from the administration to carry out the functioning of the committees”.

The state administration has made the district collector the head of the committee to decide water allocation for non-agricultural purposes, and the executive director of the Irrigation department the head of the second committee, to allocate water for irrigation purposes.

The appointment of administrative officers as committee chiefs will likely lead to less political interference in water management decisions. Pune city, especially, has seen a fair share of acrimony between the state Irrigation department and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) over the amount of water drawn by the civic body.

The PMC has been demanding allocation of 17 TMC (one thousand million cubic feet) of water, as against its usual quota of 11.5 TMC approved by the Irrigation department, to meet the increasing demands of the rapidly-expanding city. The department has pushed back by urging the PMC to restrict its consumption to only 8.19 TMC a year, citing the order of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) in the matter. The PMC has appealed against the MWRRA order and sought a higher quota of water, and a final decision in the matter has to be taken by the state Water Resources department.

The department has also warned the PMC that it will have to pay double the charge if it draws water from the Khadakwasla dam without signing an agreement with the state government, after the previous six-year-old agreement expired earlier this year. It has also urged the PMC to clear its pending dues of Rs 39 crore for drawing water more than its allocated share.