How the other half dries

P. Sainath, The Hindu

  • MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In Maharashtra, even tigers do not have
    MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In Maharashtra, even tigers do not have “an attached forest reserve.” A hoarding on the Mumbai-Pune Highway. Photo: P. Sainath
  • MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath
    MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath
  • MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath
    MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath

How we use water can be as important as how much water we have. Who owns or controls that water will prove crucial

“Every apartment is a dream come true — the coronet that tops the king-sized lifestyle of true blue blood.” So run the ads. Yup. The blue bloods do it big. Each apartment has its own private swimming pool. These are, after all, “super-luxurious, supersized designer apartments.” The kind that “match the royal lifestyles.” There are also the villas the builders proudly announce as their “first gated community project.” And yes, each of them ranging from 9,000 to 22,000 square feet also offers its own private swimming pool. In yet other buildings coming up, the duplex penthouses will each have, you guessed it: private swimming pools.

These are just in Pune alone. All of them with other amenities needing still more water. A small but proud trend — with the promise of more to come. All of them in regions of a State lamenting their greatest drought in 40 years. In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s view, one of our worst droughts ever. In a State where thousands of villages now depend on visits from water tankers. A daily visit if you’re lucky. Once or twice a week if you’re not. Yet it’s as if there is no connection between the swimming pools and the drying lakes. There’s very little discussion about it, for sure. As little as there was during two decades when the State rejoiced in the spread of dozens of “water parks” and water-theme entertainment parks. At one point, a score of them in the Greater Mumbai region alone.

Major diversions

Across the drought-hit regions of the State, despair grows. Over 7,000 villages are drought or scarcity-hit. Officially. Thousands of others are also in a bad way but are not classified as drought-hit. Of those declared as affected, some will get a bit of help. The government runs water tanker visits for them. Thousands of others make direct deals with private tankers. Close to half-a-million animals are dependent on cattle camps. Distress sales of cattle go on briskly, too. Water in many reservoirs is below 15 per cent. In some it is close to dead-storage levels. But far more than the searing drought of 1972, this is a man-made one.

There have been huge diversions of water in the last 15 years to industrial projects. And to private companies also in the lifestyle business. To cities from villages. Blood has been shed over such transfers. As in Maval in 2011 when police fired on angry farmers, killing three and wounding 19 others. They were protesting the government acquiring their land for a water pipeline from the Pavana dam to Pimpri Chinchwad. The scale of water loss this implied drew thousands more into the protests as well. The State’s response at the time was to book around 1,200 people for “attempted murder.” And for rioting as well.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also did his best to lock in the control of industry over irrigation. He even tried to amend for the worse, the already regressive Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act. One new clause on his agenda would have barred any challenge to water-distribution policies.

The trends in diversion for lifestyle-entertainment though, are not new. In 2005, a huge “Fun & Food Village Water & Amusement Park” popped up in Nagpur (Rural) district. That, in a period of real water stress. The Fun “Village” had 18 kinds of water slides. It also had “India’s first snowdrome” along with an ice rink. It is not easy to maintain snow and ice in 47° heat. That took huge amounts of electricity in a region seeing 15-hour power cuts. It also guzzled massive amounts of water.

Lavasa and agriculture

This is also a State that added quite a few golf courses in the past decade or so. It now has 22, with more in the pipeline. Golf courses use huge amounts of water. This has often sparked conflicts with farmers in the past. Golf courses worldwide also use vast amounts of pesticide that can seep into and affect the water of others as well.

Besides, this is a State where we’ve seen angry protests over the water soaked up by private projects like Lavasa, “Independent India’s first hill city.” Sharad Pawar has drawn applause for ticking off his own party’s minister, Bhaskar Jadhav, for wasteful spending on a family wedding in a time of drought. But the Union Agriculture Minister has always been gung-ho about Lavasa. The project’s website noted quite a while ago that it has “permission to store” 0.87 TMC. That is — 24.6 billion litres of water.

No State has spent more money to create less irrigation. The Economic Survey 2011-12 found that land under irrigation had gone up by just 0.1 per cent of land in a whole decade. Which still means that less than 18 per cent of cropped area in the State is irrigated. That’s after spending tens of billions of rupees to produce many millionaires and very little irrigation. The major transfers of water to industry also come in a time of agricultural decline. (A 23 per cent fall in foodgrain in 2011-12 according to the Economic Survey.)

Even as foodcrop declines, fully two-thirds of Maharashtra’s sugarcane is grown in drought-prone or water scarce areas. At least one Collector had called for sugarcane crushing in his district to be suspended during this crisis. The sugar factories there together use up to 90 lakh litres a day. Given the power the sugar barons wield, the Collector is more likely to be suspended than the crushing.

The water needed for one acre of sugarcane can irrigate 10-12 acres of foodcrops like jowar. More than half of Maharashtra’s irrigation water goes to this crop which takes just six per cent of the cultivated area. Sugarcane requires “180 acre inches of water.” That is, 18 million litres per acre. Eighteen million litres can meet the domestic water needs of 3,000 rural households for a month (That’s based on a modest 40 litres a day per person). This in regions where the water table falls every year. That has not deterred Maharashtra from encouraging Rose cultivation — a very tiny trend but growing swiftly with the promise of more to come. Roses need even more water. They need “212 acre inches.” Which is — 21.2 million litres of water per acre. Indeed, rose cultivation, small as it is, has been a cause for some celebration in the State. Exports this year went up by some 15-25 per cent. The rupee’s slide, an extended winter — and “Valentine’s Day” — gifted rose growers this happy situation.

In the last 15 years, the only regulatory frameworks the State has put in place lead to greater privatisation of water. To quicker loss of community control over this natural resource. One that is rapidly depleting. At the same time, the unchecked exploitation of groundwater has made things a lot worse. Maharashtra worked hard to get to the crisis it now faces. Private swimming pools amidst oceans of dry despair. For the rich, there is never a scarcity. For so many of the rest, their hopes evaporate by the day.


IMMEDIATE RELEASE-6TH DAY slumdwellers Fast ,No Response from the Govt, Media Blacksout





January 5, Mumbai : Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan agitation entered its 6th day today with 30 representatives from various slums of Mumbai, who had been fasting for the last 24 hours, broke their fast and the next 30 representatives began their fast. People who observed fast, with only water to drink, spoke passionately about the need to struggle against injustices happening to them in their bastis and middle class localities .  Shri Ajay Palande, from  Jogeshwari Indira Nagar, while breaking his fast, shouted the slogan “ Bhooke pyaase Ladenge, Andolan Chalayenge”. “We are trapped in the cruel web of SRA- Builders- duplicate notices- lack of basic amenities- fake allotments and have been fighting for the last 12 years. Now we wont go anywhere, they( the Government) have to come to hear us”, said Smt. Kanta Behen from Chandiwali. Today Shri Rashi Azmi from All India Milli Council,  Smt. Anita Vyas from Ambujwadi, Smt. Sabrunnisa Saha from Adarsh Nagar, Shri. Lakhan Mandal from Mandala, Smt. Gauri from Malwani 8. no., Moh. Shamim Ansari, and 24 others from different slums and middle class localities are fasting for their land rights and right to dignified housing.

 While there has been no response from the Government today also, people are determined to continue their agitation. Letters of appeal to the Government and the Centre are being drafted by the people and the supporters to take immediate decisions and interventions on the demands of the Andolan.Support from various organisations, senior activists and students is coming from all over the country which has intensified the energy and increased the enthusiasm of Andolankaris here at Azad MaidanSmt. Surekha Dalvi, Smt. Indavi Tulpade, Shri. Rambhau Wadu from Adivasi Sangathan and Shoshit Jan Andolan, Shri Byaneshwar Shedge and Shri Gyanoba Bhikule from Mosekhore Bachao Jan Andolan (fighting Lavasa)and many others came to show their solidarity with and strengthen the Andolan


Medha Patkar, Jamil bhai, Mohan Chavan, Madhuri Shivkar, Madhuri Variyath, Sumit Wajale, Santosh Thorat, Sandeep Yevale, Kishor Kardak, Girija Bahen, Prabhakar Narkar, Shilpa Sabale, Kamlesh S S, Siraj, Umar bhai, Shabbir Deshmukh

Organised by : Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Janta Jagruti Manch, Shahar Vikas Manch, Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar Bachao Samiti, Nagari Niwara Haq Samiti, Waghini Sangathan, SRA Sangharsh Samiti, Bruhanmumbai Niwara Samanvaya Samiti

Affiliates of National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements

Contact: Madhuri Shivkar 09892143242 | Madhuri Wariyath 09820619174 | Sumit Wajale 09967875999 | Sandeep Yevale 09819307419


Previous Press Releases on this campaign :

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan Continues, Thousands Continue their Sit-in at Azad Maidan, Mumbai

Thousands of Mumbaikars March towards Mantralaya Claiming Dignity and Equal Rights to City

A Sea of people marched on Streets of Mumbai to reach Mantralaya

Thousands of Mumbai’s Urban Poor to begin new year with long march on foot to Mantrayala







Immediate Release-Lavasa Case : Medha Patkar Demands Resignation of Sharad Pawar



Sharad Pawar should Follow Ajit Pawar and Must Resign


New Delhi, October 19 : Lavasa is in the air again. Corruption of one politician after another in nexus with the builders and corporations are getting exposed. The scandals which were already investigated and prosecution initiated also are to be re-viewed in the renewed context and taken to a conclusion. Illegalities and corruption in Adarsh Housing Society, Lavasa Hill City project, Hiranandani Garden, Shivalik Devlopers Golibar project, etc are some of those excavated by the National Alliance of People’s Movements after years of persistent struggle, digging out of documents, analyzing those, challenging them in ministries, Courts and mobilizing the people directly affected on the ground.


In case of Lavasa, politician of the stature of Sharad Pawar and his family members, Supriya Sule and her husband Sadashiv Sule have invested crores of rupees and erected more than 250 buildings in the Mosey River Valley without the legally mandatory clearance from the center in close collaboration with the Lavasa City Corporation. 26% of the shares of Lavasa Corporation Ltd, were owned by Supriya Sule and her husband when these illegalities and irregularities occurred. They can claim their innocence since they sold their shares, but the fact remains that they benefitted from this illegality and equally share responsibility when the corrupt and illegal land diversions took place. They used their political influence to benefit LCC and accord all clearances.


The deal involves large scale transfer of 3,300 acres of land, in violation of ceiling laws, EIA notification and other laws by government of Maharashtra to Lavassa Corporation. The land includes Krishna Valley Dev. Corporation (141 hectares), ceiling land supposed to be allotted to the landless (907 hectares), and an additional ceiling land acquired for Lavassa (273 hectares), illgeally acquired from adivasis and OBC communities, in complete violation of law. The claim made by Mr. Sharad Pawar that some of the land was under water, in response to the allegations by Mr. Y.P. Singh, the advocate in the case filed by the National Alliance of People’s Movements and other voluntary organizations, is half truth. He conceals the fact that diversion of the land once acquired for the reservoir and already submerged could not be done to a Corporation for reclamation or any other use. The land on the bank of the reservoir with water partially reserved for the Pune City, was also allotted to Lavasa Corporation. A number of cases where farmers lands were obtained by a number of dealers / agents, for meager amounts, and many other fictitious land deals took place, but ultimately mutated in favour of Lavasa.


In addition, illegally cutting off hills and rocks, building river bunds in the back waters exhibiting a political expediency and the interference lead to gross violations of lawm which was ultimately proved and accepted by MoEFNone else, but Mr. Sharad Pawar the Union Agricultural Minister, then and now, as well as Late Sri Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief Minister of Maharashtra, were responsible for by passing the objections raised by certain middle level officials as the documents indicate. Mr Pawar has often termed this as his ‘dream project’ and which has also been hailed by many as the way to build private cities and hill stations. A town built violating all the norms, is that the way to build future cities ?


A People’s Commission of enquiry into the Lavasa scandal was appointed by NAPM, with Senior Advocate Sri. Y.P. Singh, Sri. Arvind Kejriwal, Advocate N.D. Suryavanshi, and Sri S.M. Mushrif (Telgi Scam Fame – Former IG of Mumbai) as members. NAPM unearthed the documents and also collected the Primary data; however, following the report brought out by the Commission, NAPM took up the baton and filed a case in the Mumbai High Court with Sri. Y.P. Singh as its advocate and questioned the clearance granted to Lavasa by the State authorities rather than Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, as required under the Environmental guidelines.


It was a result of various orders of the Mumbai High Court that the MOEF had to investigate into the environmental sanctions and actions at Lavassa and finally order a stay on the project. As also, give a hearing to the NAPM team and the Lavasa representatives at the Ministry on various environmental aspects. What followed was the complete stay on Lavasa by the Ministry. The High Court put a stamp on the same through more than one order in 2010 itself. However it was after Sri. Sharad Pawar met Smt. Sonia Gandhi that the MoEF gave a conditional clearance to Lavasa not for any further area to be covered but only 2000 hectares i.e. 5000 acres out of the total initial plan of 25,000 acres in 20 villages.


In an eco-sensitive zone of western ghats recently studied by Madhav Gadgil, recommending, no ecologically destructive activities, the Lavasa tourism project in the name of a Hill City, is therefore, not only misappropriation of crores of rupees worth land but also irreversible damage to the ecosystem of the Mose River Valley in Western Ghats.


Mr. Y.P.Singh who pleaded the Lavasa case in the High Court on behalf of NAPM and other environmental NGOs has rightly pointed out that Lavasa is of the Major scams, which any anti-corruption campaign should take up demanding resignation from the Union Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar. We also support his position that Criminal cases need to be filed against all those responsible including the politicians. However, it is not NAPM’s intention to blame anyone for not raising this issue as the matter is before the High Court. The Maharashtra Govt. has taken some action such as filing a criminal case against the 15 office bearers of Lavasa, but it has failed to act against the politicians including Mr. Ajit Pawar who is already implicated in the irrigation scam recently exposed.


What is most condemnable is that the Lavasa Corporation has been advertising its real estate properties to be sold out and pooh-poohing its environmental protective measures and whole of its plan as being legal which in fact is in contempt of the High Court Orders and exhibits non-compliance of conditions laid down by MoEF which too is subject to the High Courts Permission to the Project. NAPM once again asserts that the State Govt. of Maharashtra, its department of Environment as well as Revenue and the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests must immediately take cognizance of the same and compel Lavasa to Suspend its work, Stop harassment of the adivasis and other farmers, and investigate the fraudulent land transfers and return the land to the original lawful owners and punish all those guilty of Squandering crores of rupees from the state exchequer as well as invaluable public property.


Medha Patkar, Suniti S.R( 020- 24251404), Vishwambhar Chaudhary, Prasad Bagve, Dnyaneshwar Shedge.


Brief Chronology of the NAPM’s agitation and Actions against Lavasa Hill City Project


2006 : Villagers from Mugav, Vasave, Bhoini approach Suniti S R, NAPM National Convener based in Pune and seek their help in fighting illegal transfer and acquisition of their land.


March 2007 : NAPM takes a yatra in the region covering the SEZs around Pune including Mahindra Karla SEZ (now scrapped), Tata dams affected areas and also holds a big rally in Basave, Medha Patkar, NAPM National Convener, also participates in that. ON the same day a dharna is also held infront of the Pune Collectorate demanding action against the illegal land transfer.


October 15 – 21 : NAPM holds massive dharna of all the project affected people in Azad Maidan, Mumbai. Government promises action within a month on various demands of the movement. Unsatisfied by the response NAPM announces establishment of aPeople’s Commission of Enquiry with Arvind Kejariwal, Y P Singh, SM Mushrif and Nirmalkumar Suryavanshi.


2009 : Project affected people of the Lavasa Hill City form Mose Khore Bachao Jan Andolan which is affiliated to National Alliance of People’s Movements.


April 20, 2009 : Commission submits its interim report to NAPM, which send it to the Maharashtra Government and to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Government citing various violations on environmental front including EIA violations, illegal transfer of adivasi land, encroachment of government land etc.


September 1, 2010 : Deputation to the Narayan Rane, who again promises action against the alleged violations as brought out in the commission report and repeats the same on September 3 in Delhi. However, he changes his position on September 15 and says that the Lavasa project can be regualirsed inspite of the violations.


September 2010 : NAPM sends a legal notice through Advocate Y P Singh to the Maharshtra government, Central MoEF and Lavasa City Corporation (LCC)


October 15, 2010 : NAPM files a PIL in Mumbai High Court, case no. 90/2010


November 21-23, 2010 : NAPM along with others hold a demonstration in Delhi on the issue of forcible land acquisitions, displacement and repeal of the land acquisition act and meets Jairam Ramesh, Minister MoEF.


November 23, 2010 : MoEF orders show cause notice to the Lavasa Hill City Project citing various environmental violations.


December 9, 10, 14, 2010 : MoEF invites representation from LCC and NAPM on the various alleged violations.


January 5 – 7, 2011 : An MoEF Expert Committee makes a visit to the project cite. NAPM also makes a presentation to the team.


January 17, 2011 : MoEF in its final order accepts various environmental violations under EIA 1994, 2004 and 2006 and orders stay on any further construction and orders Maharashtra government to take appropriate action. LCC challenges it in the Mumbai High Court.


February 2011 : Conditional Clearance is given by the MoEF but LCC doesn’t accept it and asks for a out of court settlement.


March 30, 2011 : Learned Judge of the Court Ranjana Desai says if LCC wants they can go for out of court settlement bur refuses to lift the stay order on construction.


November 9, 2011 : Final clearance by MoEF is given after Mr. Pawar brings political pressure from Centre, by then Smt Jayanti Natarajan has taken over from Mr. Jairam Ramesh. NAPM challenges it in the Mumbai Court on which the hearing is still going on.





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