Digha dam drowns in political bick­er­ing, ex­perts say there is need for au­dit

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - NAVI MUMBAI - G Mo­hi­ud­din Jeddy ht­for­nav­i­mum­bai@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

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