Amit Paranjape’s Blog

‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series) – A Great 138 Year Tradition

Posted in Current Affairs, Marathi, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 20, 2012

The 138th edition of ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series) starts this Saturday April 21 and will go on for a month at Tilak Smarak Mandir, Pune. I had written an article of this great tradition last year and I am reproducing a version of that here. I have also included the schedule for this year’s lecture series, at the end of this article. Do try to attend as many lectures as you can! This year’s speakers include Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale, Dr. Abhay Bang, Union Agri Minister Sharad Pawar, Journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, National Award Winning Singer Anand Bhate and many others. I attended nearly half of the around 30 lectures last year and they were all great.

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In recent years, TED and TEDx events are getting quite popular. They do a great job of presenting ideas from various experts and thought leaders. The first TED India event was very well received and many TEDx events have been held in various cities in India over the past year.

But did you know that an event similar in concept, but covering a broader range of topics, has been going on in Pune for 136 years! The great tradition of the ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (translation: ‘Spring Lecture Series’) was started by Justice M.G. Ranade in 1875. The idea was to present a variety of lectures, across various topics to the people. In those days, newspapers were in their infancy (Kesari had not yet started) and live lectures were the most effective medium for knowledge transfer.

Since the 18th century Peshwa era, Pune has always been a center of knowledge and education. Post the fall of the Maratha Empire in 1818, Pune city witnessed a tough period lasting for a few decades. The city’s economy was in shambles. Many scholars and learned experts left the city. Things started to improve towards the later half of the 19th century, under visionary leaders such as Justice Ranade (and later on Lokmanya Tilak).

Ranade, Tilak and other leaders of that period clearly saw the value of ‘Information’. The citizens had to be educated and informed. The Vasant Vyankhyanmala initiative was born out of the need to disseminate information and create awareness. Justice Ranade delivered the first lecture in 1875 in English. Over the years though, most lectures have been delivered in Marathi. Through its rich 137 year history, there have been very rare occasions, where the series had to be cancelled. For many years,  the Vasant Vyankhyanmala was held at Hirabag and Belbag. It has been held at its present venue – Tilak Smarak Mandir, for many decades. Today, this series covers wide ranging topics such as Culture, Arts, Economics, Science, Health, Governance, History, etc.

While I have followed this lecture series over the years through media coverage, this was my first year attending it.  The event format and the organization was very good. The only negative in my view was the number of attendees (probably less than 500). In the pre-independence era, 1000s attended these lectures. Today, there are many other media sources for getting information, but an informative and thought-provoking live lecture is still a very powerful source. If you are in Pune, you should definitely try and attend at least some of these lectures, over the next 3 weeks. The lectures are virtually free to attend (Single lecture ticket costs Rs 5 and the season ticket is Rs 100).

There is a need to get the word out regarding Vasant Vyakhyanmala. More media publicity and social media presence will definitely help. I do hope that in the next few years, this great tradition that started in 1875 will continue to thrive, and reach much bigger audiences.

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Pune Water Supply (Crisis!) – Past, Present and Future

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 4, 2012

I have been writing about the Pune Water Supply issue on and off on twitter, but haven’t gotten down to writing a detailed blog post. I have realized that I am repeating myself in many discussions – hence here is a brief compilation of basic introductory facts and some questions & points to ponder. This is a very complex issue and I am not an expert in this area. I have just compiled various data from different information sources, and added a few thoughts and points to ponder.

Brief History of Pune Water Supply


The City of Pune grew around the Mutha River and for many centuries, the river was the primary source of water. In the 18th century Pune started witnessing rapid growth as the de facto capital of the Maratha Empire during the Peshwas. The first major water supply system was built by Nanasaheb Peshwa in the 1750s (The contractor for this project was Sardar Tulshibagwale). This consisted of a water storage lake at Katraj and a system of aqueducts to bring the water to Shaniwar Wada and neighbouring area tanks (‘Hauds’). This system was quite robust and remnants of it are still visible today. This system came to rescue of Punekars in the aftermath of the Panshet Flood where the two main dams were destroyed. I had written an extensive blog post about the Panshet Flood Disaster last year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that incident:  
12 July 1961 – Panshet: A day that changed Pune

Towards the end of the 18 century, other Peshwas and their Sardars such as Nana Phadnavis, Raste added more aqueducts and storage tanks in the city. The British took control of Pune in 1817 and started expanding towards the east side, building the Pune Cantonment. The first water storage facility built here was a small bund near the present Bund Garden. In 1867, the Khadakwasla Dam was built. Visvesvarayya is credited for designing and building an advanced type of sluice gate here in the early 1900s.


Post independence, a much bigger dam was planned at Panshet. Construction started in 1955 and was almost complete by 1961. While filling up the dam, some cracks were observed and a last minute effort to save the dam failed. This resulted in a massive flood in Pune. The Khadakwasla and Panshet dams were both destroyed and some urgent alternative arrangements were needed for the next few years, until these dams were repaired. These included, using the old Peshwa era Katraj aqueduct, using the water from the Mulshi Dam (via the Mula river – a small bund was constructed near Aundh on Mula to store the water and it was pumped from there.).


As the Pune city and neigbouring agriculture requirements were growing, two new dams were built – Varasgaon was completed in 1994 and Temghar was completed in 2000. Pavana dam, that supplies to PCMC area was completed in the 1990s.

Present Water Storage – Pune and neighborhood dams

In this section, I will discuss the water storage capacities of the dams that supply to the Pune Metro region, and other neighborhood dams that have (or can) supply water to this area in future.


But before that, some basic conversions between commonly used terms:

1 TMC = 1 Thousand Million Cubic Feet =  about 28.317 million cubic meters

1 Cubic Meter = 1000 Liters, 1 Cubic Meter = 35.31 Cubic Feet.

Note – TMC is an old British system measurement. The Maharashtra Water Resources Department uses ‘1 Million Cubic Meters’ as their unit of measure.

Dam  Storage in Million Cubic Meters, (TMC)

Khadakwasla       56  (2)
Panshet              302 (10.7)
Varasgaon          363 (12.8)
Temghar            105 (3.7)

Mulshi                 523 (18.5)
Pavana                241 (8.5)
Bhama-Askhed   217 (7.7)

[For a more detailed information about all dams in Pune district and Maharashtra, go to: www.mahawrd.org (source for above data) … This website publishes daily/weekly/monthly reports about dam capacity, current storage, comparative statistics for last year, etc. ].

The water from Khadakwasla dam is brought to the primary Parvati Pumping Station via the Mutha Canal and Pipelines. From here, it is distributed to various parts of the city through various intermediate storage tanks.

Future

Last few years, every April, we are finding ourselves in a ‘water crisis’ mode. A sight of tankers is an ominous indication. I remember Pune in the 1980s and 1990s – where water shortage/crisis was literally unheard of. What has changed? I am not an expert in this area, and a detailed discussion of this issue is not in the scope of this introductory blog post. But here are a few points to ponder:

– Pune has witnessed a very high growth rate over the past two decades and the population of the metro area has nearly tripled since 1990. Water requirements have also grown in this proportion (if not a bit higher).

– Current demand for the city (not including PCMC) is around 14-15 TMC. Pune requirements are supplied by the 4 dams: Panshet, Varasgaon, Temghar and Khadakwasla. Khadakwasla is really a staging and distribution point for the two big dams upstream. (PCMC needs around 6-7 TMC and is supplied by the Pavana dam.)

– For the past decade, the storage capacity across the 4 Pune dams has remained nearly the same.. around 29 TMC. Evaporation losses are roughly 1-1.5 TMC. Also note that silting (mud flowing in each year from the water run-off) over the years reduces the dam storage capacities. Regular de-silting is very important.

– Note that these 4 dams are not exclusively dedicated for Pune (like the dams for Mumbai). They also supply to the agriculture belt south-east of Pune. So while it appears that the storage is twice of what Pune needs, that’s not really the case. I am not going to get into the debate of allocation issues, etc. here. But suffice to say that a better and more transparent allocation policy and process between the state and local governments will help.

– At the current / projected growth rate, Pune’s requirements may approach 25 TMC and even more, in a decade. Then what!? Well, that’s the billion dollar question! What are the options / alternatives available?

– It is estimated that currently, 20-30% of water that is supplied to Pune is wasted via leakages, etc. Distribution needs to improve to cut down on the losses, and keep them at the minimum.

– Allocation between Pune requirements (Drinking) vs. Agriculture will again have to be revisited.

– Bhama-Askhed may be able to provide some additional supply to the city, but it may also be needed for the fast growing Chakan-Talegaon area.

– Some water from Mulshi could be potentially diverted to Pune? But that will mean reduction in electricity generation (this dam is owned by Tata Power and the water is used to generate hydro-power). An even more tougher option would be bring in water from dams further out via pumping (e.g. Bhatghar, etc.)..no idea about the feasibility of this option. 

– Other water conservation methods – rain-water-harvesting, etc are also needed..but these alone will not be adequate. Tapping ground water through bore-wells is already on the rise, and this can be a good source. However, excessive reliance on bore-wells is not a good idea – the water table will keep shrinking and will fall  deeper and deeper each year. Look at what has happened in Bangalore.

– Explore feasibility of building one (or more) dams further upstream of Panshet and Varasgaon. Again this will take a long time, even if feasible.

Note each alternative will involve many compromises – unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. 

 

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