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.
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.
12 July 1961 – this fateful day will remain forever etched in Pune’s history. A day that changed the history and geography of this great city. Call it a bad coincidence – but two events that happened almost exactly 200 years apart have played a critical role in Pune’s history – to the extent that they have been added to the local Marathi lexicon. The first one was the 3rd Battle of Panipat in 1761 and the second one: the Panshet flood. “पानिपत झालं” (Panipat zala) and “पानशेत झालं” (Panshet zala) are commonly used terms today to refer to a big disaster.
Half a century ago, the new under-construction Panshet dam had started developing some problems, even before it was complete. Against some recommendations, the dam was being filled up during the 1961 monsoon season. Cracks started developing and yet there was lot of debate on whether the dam was in real imminent danger. Read this technical article for a good engineering summary of what went wrong at Panshet: http://nptel.iitm.ac.in/courses/IIT-MADRAS/Hydraulics/pdfs/Unit41/41_2.pdf
A valiant last-ditch effort by the Army Jawans managed to delay the inevitable by a few hours. These few hours helped a lot. If not for this great effort, where thousands of sand bags were deployed, the dam would have burst in the middle of the night, creating havoc for the sleeping residents of Pune. The few hours delay meant that the burst happened early morning and the wall of flood waters reached Pune later in the morning. The deluge of flood waters of Panshet also broke the smaller Khadakwasla dam, further downstream.
Residents started getting some warnings early in the morning and the authorities started moving out the residents living near the riverside. Many residents fled to higher grounds, some all the way to the Parvati Hill. Apparently, All India Radio did not broadcast any warnings, and was playing a regular scheduled music program when the floods struck. The low lying areas of the old city were almost completely submerged. Except for the Bund Garden Bridge, all the bridges were under water as well. Water rushed into the old ‘Peths’ and along Karve Road, Deccan Gymkhana areas. For many hours, the high water levels persisted. Roughly speaking Panshet water reservoir stores enough water for all of Pune’s city needs today (today’s needs are probably 5-10 times more than the 1960s requirements). Imagine all that water being drained out in just a few hours! To give you an idea of the level of the water, just visualize the first floor of Abasaheb Garware College (MES) on Karve Road, nearly completely submerged! Some people and rescue workers were trying navigate Deccan Gymkhana, FC/JM Road areas in small boats.
The water levels finally started falling by late night. The floods completely cutoff the electric and water supply. July 12th was a dark, rainy night in Pune – with rumors still doing the rounds. Some of them pointed to more floods on the way… (even though the dams had been drained empty by then..). When the flood-waters receded, they left behind a trail of destruction and a muddy mess. The cleanup and rebuilding took many months. The old riverside city landscape changed forever. New localities (such as Lokmanya Nagar, Gokhale Nagar, etc.) were setup to resettle some of the flood affected citizens. Most of the bridges were damaged and needed fixing and in some cases complete rebuilding. With Khadakwasla and Panshet dams completely drained, there was no water supply for the city. The Peshwa era Katraj water aqueduct was used to meet some water requirements. Wells were another source. Wadas that had wells had to prominently list ‘Well’ on their main door – so that, the water source could be be made available.
I have found a series of good articles about the Panshet flood disaster, including many firsthand accounts. Some of these links are listed below. I will continue to add more links here. If you come across any good articles, do let me know. Also if you have personal memories from your own experiences, or from your friends & families, please share them here in the comments section.
Indian Express Headline: July 12, 1961 http://twitpic.com/5owvo0
पानशेत प्रलय आणी मी – मधुकर हेबळे (‘Panshet Pralay Ani Mi’ – Madhukar Heble)