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Despite its once-recharge cradles drying up, MP still unable to reverse process

Shashikant Trivedi  |  Bhopal 

Madhya Pradesh, which cradles many rivers, lakes and waterfalls in the great Malwa plateau, is today finding its water sources not enough to quench the thirst of its fast-growing cities.

While the capital here saw its water sources suddenly drying up this year, the commercial capital, Indore, declared a water emergency. In Bhopal the growth of the city evident in the countless new residential complexes that are stretching New Bhopal farther has not only left Old Bhopal and its old ways behind, it is opening doors to new water sources, and even for the first time to the concept of metering water supply..

The Upper Lake that used to quench the thirst of Bhopalis is now not enough. This year, it ran short of water, thanks to pollution in its main source, the Kolans and Uljhavan rivers. The Bhopal Municipal Corporation promptly slashed supply to once in two days to maintain supply.

The city is now pinning its hopes on the Narmada Water supply project, already behind schedule, with a new deadline of March 2010. The long-pending project is taking shape with an investment of Rs 330 crore under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Another amount of Rs 415 crore has been sanctioned to establish a distribution network in various localities, which will take another two years.

The city used to charge every user a flat rate of Rs 60 per month, whatever the quantity used. It is now taking its first steps towards metering the supply. The move to increase rates has been resisted so far under political pressure. But the JNNURM scheme will see the beginning of metered water supply. At present the Bhopal Municipal Corporation supplies 34 mgd (million gallons a day) from the Kolar dam, 5-7 mgd from Upper Lake (capacity 35-30 mgd), 4-5 mgd from groundwater sources and 0.7-1 mgd from the Kerwa dam. With this, BMC is barely able to supply water on alternate days.

“We have a persistent demand for years to raise water supply charges; it should have been Rs 220 per person per month, but our council turns it down on various reasons,” said a senior official in BMC.

The Narmada river will add 185 mgd to the capacity. It will be lifted from Shahganj, 72 km from Bhopal, and will be supplied, according to government estimates, for another 25 years.

Of the total cost of Rs 765 crore, the state government will contribute 20 per cent, the BMC would contribute 30 per cent and the Centre would bear the rest. Though this promises to make water costlier, the city is waiting for the Narmada.

In Indore, the local administration announced a water emergency, as its main source, the Yashwant Sagar lake, dried up. Indore like Bhopal today, is waiting for the Narmada waters to quench its needs. This is despite the fact that Indore has its own tanks and rivers, which were once able to fullfil its needs but have been left to die. Just as Bhopal’s once-green Idgah hills are today unrecognisably covered with concrete, thus denying it the wealth of ground water recharge in those areas, Indore’s two rivers, Khan and Harsiddhi, are sewage drains today, while Yashwant Sagar and the tanks, Bilawali Shirpur and Piplyapala, are empty.

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First Published: Mon, December 28 2009. 00:02 IST