Dombivli’s water shortage: A fight that gets harder by the year

Water shortage in Dombivli has only worsened with time, exacerbated by rapid urbanisation, poor water management and erratic monsoons.

A popular quote by WH Auden says, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” I am deeply convinced that it is true, especially in present times, where the planned urban cities are facing acute water shortage on a regular basis, along with rural and remote areas. One of them is Dombivli.

Dombivli, with its rapidly expanding population and insufficient infrastructure, has been grappling with water scarcity for years. I live in an integrated smart city with more than 100 residential buildings built near Dombivli. Currently almost 2,00,000 citizens reside in more than a 1000 flats. Facilities such as swimming pool, clubs, cricket ground are available, which is a rare luxury in suburbs of Thane district.

Map of Maharashtra showing Dombivili
Dombivli, with its rapidly expanding population and insufficient infrastructure, has been grappling with water scarcity for years. Pic: Google Maps

Dombivli has had water shortage for decades. But even in our integrated smart city we are facing it. Some are facing it on a weekly basis. At our place, perhaps the frequency of water-cut is once a month.

The situation has only worsened with time, exacerbated by factors such as rapid urbanisation, poor water management practices, and erratic monsoon patterns. As a resident, I have witnessed the detrimental effects of this crisis on our daily lives.

Read more: Water shortage in Bengaluru: Families, schools, hospitals share their struggle

Preparing for water shortage

The struggle begins when a notification about water shortage and water-cut flashes on our society WhatsApp group. The message is sent by the management to alert residents of the societies. As per the guidelines, we get alert before danger level but this is not pre-planned. Many times, when I get the message, I am not at home. At that given point of time, a wave of frustration and helplessness washes over me. 

As soon as the water shortage and water-cut notification comes, I start waiting for the tap water to resume. The kitchen tap runs dry, and so do taps in the bathroom. It leaves us with no choice but to wait for hours or even days, for the management to replenish the water supply. It takes more time than usual to fill buckets and other utensils because the water pressure is low. The only relief for us is the toilet flush, which functions even during water-cuts. 

Read more: Waiting for water: Thoraipakkam residents demand speedy implementation of CMWSSB scheme

The municipality supplies water for all purposes. But all the residents of the township use RO purifiers for both drinking and cooking purposes, which results in a lot of water getting wasted. (RO filters release a lot of water during the purification process). The society offices and township administration claims that the water is recycled and reused for flushing, gardening and irrigation. We have installed rainwater harvesting systems as well, to meet water requirements without having to depend entirely on the municipal supply.

Water tankers are filled at the ground storage reservoirs and water is supplied through tankers during water-cuts. The water supply at high pressure can be resumed only when the roof tanks have more than 60% capacity.

This uncertainty has become a part of our reality, dictating our schedules and forcing us to adapt to a life with perpetual water shortage. 

Solutions to handle water shortage

First, there must be a mandatory clause for Rainwater Harvesting system installation in all the Dombivli townships. This will help in both – recharging of ground water and direct use.  The annual rainfall for the city of Mumbai is 1800 mm, which means we lose most of the rain water to the sea. Societies do have underground reservoirs but the government needs to be strict so that we can save every drop of water.

Rainwater Harvesting Pit
A rainwater harvesting pit. Unless measures such as rainwater harvesting are implemented, water scarcity is likely to worsen. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan

Second, if possible, provide subsidies on Sewage Treatment Plants for the societies. The cost for commission is quite high and so the local authority and society can distribute equal expenses on STP. It will reduce water wastage effectively.

Read more: Bhalswa tales: Fetching water in the shadow of a landfill

Third, the annual water conservation meeting must be mandatory with a panel consisting of both society members and local authorities. It will bring direct participation of citizens in water harvesting. This will also bring transparency in terms of accountability of the management.

Fourth, conduct a panel for inspection of RWH and STP as it will bring proper functioning of the systems. These inspections will also help in repairing, maintenance and prevention of water leakage.

At last, take strict actions on water tanker operators as they can take advantage of the scarcity. The prices of tankers are skyrocketing and so is the demand for water usage. This is one of the major factors that the society’s maintenance charges are increasing rapidly leaving us no choice but to pay a hefty amount for pure water.

My MP and water shortage

The solution to scarcity is not just limited to conservation but also management of water as a finite resource. I believe that my MP should fight for changing the existing systems and include solutions to water shortage in their manifesto. It can resolve the water scarcity for both present and future generations.

With the help of local authorities, public representatives – MPs and MLAs can perform workshops on water harvesting measures and create awareness as well. I wish my MP ensures that every resident of this town has access to the most basic of human rights: clean, safe, and reliable water.

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