Bombay HC gives Maharashtra six months to decide on water supply plan

Kanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai: The Bombay high court has directed the state government to take a decision in

six months on a proposal to divert water from west-flowing rivers to the Godavari and Tapi sub-basin to alleviate water scarcity in Marathwada.
Acting on a number of public interest litigations concerning water supply to Marathwada and other parts of western Maharashtra, bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Girish Kulkarni also directed the state government to take a decision on another proposal – to provide direct gravity pipelines from upstream reservoirs on the Godavari river basin for the benefit of the downstream Jayakwadi dam.
On the proposal to divert water from west-flowing rivers to the Godavari and Tapi sub-basins, the court noted that in 2001, a government-appointed committee had laid out a scheme to divert 80 TMC (thousand million cubic metres) of water that goes waste after flowing through various rivers into the Arabian Sea from western side of the Sahyadri range in Nasik and Thane districts. The court also took into consideration the fact that the state government spent over Rs 3,700 crore on drought relief in 2014-15.
Read more: Maharashtra has received 88.3% of its annual average rainfall
As for providing direct gravity pipelines, the court observed that it was not an impossible task. “We are in an era that has seen pipelines of hundreds of kilometres in our own country carrying natural gas,” said the bench. “Here we are concerned with water, which is a basic requirement for human survival and development.”
“The requirement of petroleum may be secondary to that of water,” said the bench. “In this situation, we do not see why provision for such water transportation from areas which receive sufficient rainfall cannot be diverted and transported by pipelines to areas such as Marathwada, where there is a scarcity year after year.”
In its 200-page judgment, the bench also observed that residents of any particular region cannot claim exclusive ownership over flowing or stored water. “As far as water flowing through rivers and water stored in reservoirs is concerned, the state is the trustee of the same and the public at large is the beneficiary,” it said. “It follows that no citizen or entity can claim any preferential right in respect of the particular quantity (of water),” said the judges. “No one can claim a vested or preferential right to get water from a particular reservoir or river or other source of water.”