Digha dam drowns in political bickering, experts say there is need for audit
The drought in the state and the acute water shortage in Navi Mumbai have suddenly brought into limelight the railways’ dam at Digha, which has been lying in ruins post-Independence.
Even as a tussle is on for claiming political credit for the water supply from the dam to the city, there seems to be little attention being paid to issues such as encroachment on the dam land, the dam wall safety audit among other such matters.
The British had established The East India Railway in 1845 to start railway service in India. Following a survey, it decided to start the first railway from Mumbai to Digha. To ensure that the railways received adequate water supply, it constructed a dam in Iltan village in Digha. The pipeline from the dam was laid till Thane.
The water supply to the railway service that started in 1853 was made from the dam. The water from it was used till Independence. However, it was stopped soon after as the railways did not need the water.
The dam, constructed almost 160 years back, continued to be neglected even after Navi Mumbai was developed. The importance of the dam has now been realised as the state faces drought.
MP Rajan Vichare had met railways minister Suresh Prabhu and requested that the dam water be supplied to Digha. Following the meeting, the railways announced permission to use the water for three months.
Now, water from the dam will also be supplied to Thane.
Even as Shiv Sena and NCP are claiming credit for the water supply, there is little talk of the important issues of structural condition of the old dam, how strong its walls are, the slums that have encroached the dam area, the safety and security of the dam.
Mahesh Patil, a social worker, said, “Nobody seems to be interested in taking adequate precautions. If God forbid, the wall of the dam collapses, hundreds of shanties could be swept away. Plans are being prepared to supply the dam water to Thane and Navi Mumbai. However, only 3 to 4 mld of water from the dam can be used every day. It has a capacity to supply water to an area with a population of around 15,000 to 20,000 people for one year.”
He added, “Supplying water from the dam to Thane is financially not feasible. However, political compulsions seem to be forcing the decision. The dam does not have water to supply both the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation and Thane Municipal Corporation. The water can be used for the residential areas as well as companies. It is thus important that there is no politics on the issue and efforts are made to make maximum use of the water.”
Water from the dam will also be supplied to Thane.