Mumbai: Rapping the Maharashtra government for its inaction on appointing members to the state Water Resources Management Authority, the Bombay High Court on Monday said it was because of this delay the state was reeling under a drought situation.
WRMA decides on the distribution of water to dams across the state.
"The chairman of the authority got retired in 2011 and the member in 2012. Since then the posts have been lying vacant. This inaction on part of the government is the reason behind this complication (drought)," a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha said.
The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by Solapur-based farmer association Mohol Taluka Bahu Uddeshiya Shetkari stating that the authorities concerned are not implementing provisions for equitable water distribution.
According to the petition, due to this, the Ujani dam, which provides water to Solapur district, has gone dry.
The bench had on the last hearing directed the government to release water from other dams to the low-lying Ujani dam.
Advocate SS Shinde appearing for the government informed the court that water from two other dams - Bhama Akshed and Andra - have been released in Ujani dam.
"However, the water would take around 40 days to reach Ujani dam. Due to theft and evaporation, the amount of water that will finally reach Ujani will not be very significant," Shinde said.
While one dam (Bhama Akshed) is situated 280 kms away from Ujani, the second dam (Andra) is 330 kms away.
Asked by the court as to why water cannot be released from the closer Khadakwasla dam, Shinde said it would not be possible as the basins and valleys are different.
Shinde also told the court that while a chairman has been appointed to the WRMA, a member would be appointed within two weeks.
"Make the authority functional as expeditiously as possible. Do it within a week. This authority shall then take necessary decisions regarding distribution of water," the chief justice said posting the matter for hearing on April 24.
According to the petition, due to scanty rainfall, their area has been hit by drought, after which the petitioners had brought to the notice of the authorities that the water level of the dam had gone down.
The petition states that Ujani, also known as Bhima dam, is part of the Bhima irrigation project along the Bhima river tributary, which caters to 22 other dams.
According to petitioner`s lawyer Madhav Chaudhary, as per the relevant act, the water level of dams has to be maintained equally.
However, the water storage level of the Ujani has gone down to minus 30 per cent and this dam is specifically meant for Solapur district, which is facing a drought-like situation, he told the court.
The demand for water for the Ujani dam was also made by Prabhakar Deshmukh of the Solapur District Janhit Shetkari Sanghatana, an organisation of farmers, whom deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar mentioned during his speech before making a coarse remark about urinating in empty dams.
Farmers of the Sanghatana have been agitating at the Azad Maidan here for the past 60 days, demanding release of 3000 million cubic feet of water into the Ujani dam.