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

Posted in Pune, Current Affairs 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: (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.


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.) 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. 


Pune Local Elections 2012 – Representative Case Study For Urban India

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on February 21, 2012

I wrote this article for ‘INI Broad Mind’. I am reproducing it here on my blog. For more information on INI Broad Mind and the Takshashila Foundation, please click here.

I was a voter and an interested citizen observer on the sidelines of the recently concluded Pune Municipal Corporation Elections.  I think they may provide some representative case-studies on issues/learnings for local election issues in many other pockets of urban India.

The Pune local elections are now over and in a sense, it is back to the ‘same-old same-old’. Looks like NCP-Congress combine is all set to retain power. The election voting percentage was a lackluster 51% (close to the voting percentage of the 2007 election). But a few things were different. And it is quite possible that over the medium and long term, these might have big impacts on Pune electoral politics and governance going forward. Maybe I am just hopeful…but then ‘hope’ is an eternal thing!

In this article, I will take a look at the build up to the Pune elections, the results, the aftermath and possible lessons learnt by various participants and stakeholders.

The Build-Up

Pune has witnessed an impressive growth over the past decade. From just being a small city known as the cultural capital of Maharashtra and a center of education, the city has witnessed a transformation into a large metropolis. The city is plagued with many of the same issues that are typical in most big cities – traffic, roads, public transportation, garbage, water, education, health, etc.

This election was considered important on quite a few counts. Strategic issues around Pune such as approval of the Development Plan (already pending for many years), public transportation (Metro), etc. were at the forefront. Another important issue was the rise of the independent citizen parties. Since the Janlokpal agitations of the last year, there was expectancy that the city will show much more enthusiasm in voting and in supporting clean candidates. On the political front, the NCP-Congress alliance had announced that were contesting separately. BJP-Sena still had their coalition; the ‘Kalmadi’ factor was a definite negative for the Congress; MNS was a dark horse. NCP was making a clear push to gain unilateral power (just like the neighboring PCMC) and Ajit Pawar had made it his top priority.

The citizen independent parties consisting of PNS (Pune Nagari Sanghatana) and PJA (Pune Janaheet Aghadi) had fielded over 15 candidates. While the task was uphill for them, there was hope that they may be able to make small inroads into the Corporation with a few wins. Many citizens were positive about this new alternative front that provided them with clean, well educated and non-aligned options.

The Result

The results, though not a total surprise did have some interesting twists:

– NCP emerged as the single largest party.
– Congress didn’t do as well as expected. Kalmadi factor affected them negatively.
– BJP-SS performance wasn’t spectacular either.
– MNS surprised many by their strong showing, becoming the 2nd biggest party.
– 3 NCP Mayors and ex-Mayors lost.
– No candidate from the citizen independent parties won.
– A few candidates with criminal histories did win in their strongholds.

After Action Review

NCP did partially achieve what it set out for, but will still have to partner with Congress. The few key losses of NCP like that of outgoing Mayor are a sign of anti-incumbency. Congress suffered and outside their strength seats, polled low voting percentages. MNS surprised many with their strong showing – clearly the voter who was looking for choices against the incumbents didn’t migrate to the main opposition; but instead decided to try the 3rd untested option. Raj Thackrey’s personal draw definitely helped the MNS in their campaign. The independent citizen parties fared poorly than most expected. They didn’t win a single seat. They did manage a good showing (in terms of votes polled) in a few contests, but those were clearly not enough. This was a big disappointment for the citizens who were hoping for some change. The fact that even this time, there were candidates with criminal records (fielded by the major parties) who managed to win, further highlights the ‘status quo’ from previous elections.

Frankly, for me the biggest disappointment was the voting percentage: 51% – fairly close to what it was for the last election. I for one had expected that with the overall frustration/anger against corruption, the state of the city, and the incumbents’ performance – citizens would come out in larger numbers and exercise their voting rights. This didn’t happen. This for sure hurt the independent candidates more than the established parties. I can think of many reasons for the poor showing at the voting booth, though not sure which ones are more prominent than the others.

Maybe people are still not ‘upset’ enough to push aggressively for a change. There is a difference between ‘irritability’ and ‘outright anger’ (that drives revolutions). The quality of life for most people in urban India has increased (traffic problems not withstanding) with the 7-8% growth rate. As a result, they maybe get ‘irritated’ with traffic, garbage – but not ‘angered’ enough! Same might be true with corruption. Everyone agrees it is bad – but is it bad enough to incite ‘anger’ and drive change? Apparently not?

The middle-class voter apathy was apparent. If you had observed a typical candidate campaign ‘Sabha’ at a housing society – you would have noticed that the average age of participants was 50+ and often 60+. Where was the middle class youth? How many even knew the candidates who were contesting? I wonder. On the other hand, if you visit a slum or a ‘Vastee’ – the youth there has always been actively involved in supporting their local candidate. These local candidates ‘took care’ of their Vastee. For example, consider this – a middle class person is irritated by illegal encroachments near his house – but often these encroachments support good lively-hood for the youth in the slums – and they back the corporators who may have facilitated these illegal ‘Tapris’ (Shacks). I think (don’t have enough data as yet to back this up..) that when we have an aggregate voting percentage of 50%, the voting percentage in slums is much higher than 50%, and that in the middle class housing societies is much lower. Guess who will have the higher priority? In a sense the electoral process is working fine – just as it is supposed to!

The Future

NCP-Congress is all set to retain power. Don’t expect major policy and working changes; and as a result this is a disappointment. Issues such as the pathetic state of public transportation and garbage management will continue to be around, with no immediate solutions in sight. During election, it was easy to pitch the ‘Metro’ as a panacea, but the reality is way out in the future (and that is, after there is an agreement on the design and execution plan).

The NCP has announced its intentions of taking their victory in Pune further by staking claim for the Pune LokSabha seat for the next elections.  The rise of MNS is an interesting development, and we will have to see what role they play over the next few years. They are clearly going to be an important player in the next Maharashtra and National elections.

The independent parties need to introspect and come up with their long term strategies for future elections. Organizing citizen parties just a few months before the elections is not adequate. These parties need to be around for a while. They need to build better organization and politicking skills. They have a much tougher task in reaching out to the voters – since they don’t have the brand and money power of the established parties. Hope these parties consisting of smart and well-intentioned folks learn quickly and implement the necessary changes to take on the tough challenge.

A few quick thoughts on the voting process, while the desire to vote should be intrinsic, technology and process changes should definitely be considered to help. Some kind of remote voting options and/or voting at any booth should be considered.

For anyone and everyone who is interested in improving India’s democracy by increasing voting turnouts – much more discussions and analyses are still needed.


‘Bal Gandharva’ – A Nice Tribute To The Legend

Posted in History, Pune, TV, Entertainment & Movies, Uncategorized by Amit Paranjape on May 9, 2011

The ‘Bal Gandharva’ movie opened this week. I was eagerly waiting for its release, and managed to catch this afternoon’s show. I normally don’t blog about cinema; unless I am really impressed (or extremely disappointed) with a specific movie. ‘Bal Gandharva’ clearly falls in the former category…hence this brief blog post.

This movie provides a great snapshot into the life of the legendary Marathi Theater artist and singer Narayan Shripad Rajhans (popularly known as ‘Bal Gandharva’).

[Do read this great speech by Pu La Deshpande (from 1988) describing the greatness of Bal Gandharva. I will quote a few of lines:  “महाराष्ट्राने तीन व्यक्तींवर जिवापाड प्रेम केलेलं आहे. ही महाराष्ट्राची सांस्कृतिक दैवतं आहेत असं म्हटलं तरी चालेल. पहिले म्हणजे छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज, दुसरे लोकमान्य बाळ गंगाधर टिळक आणि तिसरे बालगंधर्व.”

Roughly translates as: “Maharashtra has given undying love to three great individuals. These three can be referred to as the cultural/historical gods of Maharashtra. First one is Shivaji Maharaj, second Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and third Bal Gandharva.”]

Coming back to the movie, Subodh Bhave in the lead role of Bal Gandharva is terrific. The screen-play, the sets, the direction are all excellent. At times, the movie has a slight documentary like feel and the viewer is transported to Maharashtra in the early part of the 20th century – an era that represented the golden age of Marathi Theater. The movie is thoroughly entertaining and engrossing. Music is an integral part of the movie and Anand Bhate has does an amazing job of singing the original Bal Gandharva classics.

‘Bal Gandharva’ presents many of the key events and periods in the life of Bal Gandharva, in a balanced manner, often leaving the interpretation to the viewer. His early years with the Kirloskar Natak Company…His amazing potrayal of female roles… Setting up his own Gandharva Natak Mandali… Struggles with his personal family life… His constant desire to leave no stone unturned to create a grand production for the audience, at any cost… His utter mismanagement of finances and resulting huge debts… The waning years of his career when theater audiences started defecting to the new medium of cinema… and through all this, his total perseverance and steadfast devotion to his primary love – Theater.

From a historical perspective, this movie shows many important characters and events. Lokmanya Tilak listening to a young Narayan (aged 10) and referring him as ‘Bal Gandharva’ for the first time, Anant Kanhere shooting Collector Jackson at a theater in Nashik, Ram Ganesh Gadkari at his death bed, Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, Maharaja of Baroda, a young V Shantaram convincing Bal Gandharva to switch to this new medium called ‘Cinema’,…and many more. I personally like historical movies and Bal Gandharva scores really well in this area as well.

Do watch ‘Bal Gandharva’ if you are a fan of theater, history or music. The movie has English sub-titles.

I will close with this line (by Ga Di Madgulkar?): “”असा बालगंधर्व आता न होणे!”

Commemorating 250 years of the Battle of Panipat

Posted in History, Pune by Amit Paranjape on January 13, 2011

3rd Battle Of Panipat (image credit: wikipedia)

January 14, 1761 – the fateful day that forever will live in the infamy of Pune, Maharashtra and India history. This was the day that coined a new word in the Marathi lexicon: ‘Panipat’ (literally means ‘a disaster’ in Marathi).

This was the day when Sadashivrao Bhau’s armies were defeated in a bloody battle against Ahmedshah Abdalli on the plains of Panipat, 100km north of Delhi, in one of the biggest battles witnessed in India in the 18th century. The causalities and destruction on both sides were very high; even the victor couldn’t consolidate his position significantly.

This was the day where a culmination of many strategic and tactical mistakes finally caught up with the Marathas. This was the day when the Maratha Empire took a big step down from its absolute peak. This was the day from whose shock Nanasaheb Peshwe never recovered – and eventually died later in the same year.

[The fact that the Maratha Empire was able to rise back to a respectable level again owes a lot to the great Madhavrao Peshwe, who inherited a shocked and weakened post-Panipat empire at a young age of 16. In a short span of 12 years, before he fell to tuberculosis, he brought about a huge turnaround. British historian Grant Duff summarizes this quite well: “…the plains of Panipat were not more fatal to the Maratha Empire than the early end of this excellent prince”] 

Maratha Empire in 1760 (image credit: wikipedia)

This was the day where many great instances of individual bravery and heroism were witnessed. This was the day that quite possibly changed the course of Indian history. The British who had just won their first major victory in India at Plassey in 1757 got an opening.

Today, we solemnly commemorate the 250th anniversary of 3rd battle of Panipat. This is the time to remember the heroism; and also to learn from the mistakes. Today we remember Sadashivrao Bhau, Vishwasrao, Dattaji Shinde, Ibrahim Gardi and countless other brave soldiers who fell in that fateful battle, 250 years ago. All over Maharashtra and India, many functions have been organized to remember this day, including some at Panipat.

Numerous books and research works have been published on this topic. To get an overview, I would recommend the reader start with this:

——Update on Feb 7, 2011—–

Vishwas Patil has written one of the most popular books about the Battle of Panipat. Originally written in Marathi nearly 20 years back, it has had many new editions/reprints and has been translated into other languages as well. Here is a nice indepth interview of Vishwas Patil (4 parts):

——-Update on Jan 13, 2013——

One of the best books to read on this topic is ‘Solstice at Panipat’ by Dr. Uday Kulkarni. Highly recommended. You can check out the book’s facebook page here:

Good review of ‘Solstice at Panipat’ by Manimughda S Sharma: ‘Panipat 3 resurrected’

Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal – A Great Institution Of Maharashtra & India History

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Pune by Amit Paranjape on July 7, 2010


Bharat Itihaas Sanshodhak Mandal


Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal (Devnagari: भारत इतिहास संशोधक मंडळ ), Pune is one of the great institutions of Maharashtra and Indian History. It was founded this day, 100 years ago by the great historian Rajwade.    

As the institute celebrates 100 years, it is important to note the historical information treasures that it maintains. These include historical documents (some dating back over 700 years), coins (some as old as 200 B.C.) , artifacts, maps, paintings, rare books and early Marathi newspapers. Some of the institution collection is open for public viewing, while the rest is made available to research scholars. The Mandal (institution) organizes special exhibitions from time to time, where a lot of the collection is on display. This collection has helped many history scholars and researchers over the past 100 years in their research. The Mandal also organizes many training workshops around old launguages/scripts (e.g. the old Modi ‘मोडी’ script).    

Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal is located in Sadashiv Peth Pune (next to Bharat Natya Mandir). It houses:    

Rajwade and Potdar Halls.    

Painting Gallery – Collection of over 1500 paintings (130 on display), including a good collection from the Peshwa Era.    

Khare Museum – Collection of various artifacts across different dynasties: Furniture, Weapons, Canon Balls, etc.    

Library & Archives – These contain a collection of over 800.000 documents in Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada, Persian and other languages.    

The Mandal has multiple plans in place to expand and better preserve its great collection and is looking for support. For more information, you can contact the Mandal directly at their Pune Office: 1321 Sadashiv Peth, Pune 411 030. Phone: 020-2447 2581    


1. Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal Centenary Year Brochure    

2. Wikipedia    


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