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THE NEVER ENDING SAGA BEHIND THE MORBE WATERS

The NMMC had first presented the proposal of buying Morbe Dam in October 2002. Its 2009 – and now MJP has started working on transferring Morbe Dam to NMMC. It’s been close to seven years – we take you back into time and bring to you the never ending saga of the Morbe water – the politics, the promises, the use, the misuse, the abuse and everything that has been done in the name of Morbe water that is yet to reach the end Navi Mumbaikar’s homes. That’s our weekend exclusive. * 2002 OCTOBER October 2002 – the month when the proposal to buy the Morbe Dam was first presented to NMMC general body meeting. It was said that developing the dam would cost NMMC Rs. 253 Crores. The then Municipal Commissioner Sunil Soni had spoken to us on the subject and said that the water rates would not change if NMMC decided to go ahead and acquire Morbe Dam. * 2002 NOVEMBER After having settled on the seat of the first citizen, Mayor Sanjeev Naik called for a press conference. In that month of November 2002, Sanjeev Naik had assured of clean and pure 24 hours water supply to Navi Mumbaikars within 2.5 years. If Sanjeev Naik’s assurance had been fulfilled, Navi Mumbai would have got water supply from Morbe way back in 2005 but its 2009. * 2002 DECEMBER Now take a look at how Morbe water was even used to promote builders property exhibition so that customers could be lured to buy homes in Navi Mumbai. In December 2002, the then Dy. Chief Minister of Maharashtra Chagan Bhujbal made a rather misguiding statement saying that Morbe was handed over to NMMC and would supply water to Navi Mumbai for 15 years. Not only did Chagan Bhujbal make a misguiding statement about possession of Morbe Dam but also about power – and no can testify this better than every Navi Mumbaikar. * 2003 DECEMBER A year later to all that was said and done in 2002, an 18 member experts committee of NMMC visited Morbe Dam to study whether it was viable to buy the dam. However, everything that the media was informed then – turned out be wishful thinking of NMMC. We’ll tell you why? The committee that was inclusive of corproators had informed after the study that the dam’s completion would work out to be approximately Rs. 530 Crores – which today has crossed Rs. 1000 Crores, the project would be completed by 2005 – its 2009 and the project is still not completed, that 24% of the cost would be recovered by the state government aids – which again did not happen as the entire cost has been borne by NMMC. The media was also made to believe that the state government had issued a directive to transfer the ownership of the Morbe Dam from Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation but even today that NMMC does not own Morbe Dam. * 2003 DECEMBER In the midst of all this drama, water woes of residents got worse due to bureaucratic squabbles. Where on one side, political leaders tried to gain mileage out of the issue by creating a mayhem in NMMC general body meeting and then taking out a morcha to CIDCO, the then CIDCO MD Anil Kumar Lakhina and the then NMMC Commissioner Sunil Soni fought over the rates of Hetawane water. Meanwhile, citizens were suffering due to acute water crisis. * 2003 MARCH After allocating Rs. 50 Crores, in the NMMC budget to buy Morbe Dam, the then Municipal Commissioner Sunil Soni gave an all together different arithmetic on the cost of the dam. * 2003 NOVEMBER NMMC Commissioner Sunil Soni changed and Ramesh Ubale took charge as NMMC Commissioner. In that meeting Commissioner Ramesh Ubale had made the shocking revelation that Minister R R Patil had given the ultimatum that if NMMC took more time to pay the cost of Morbe Dam, the corporation will have to surrender the dam to the State. The Morbe Dam became a heated subject of discussion to score political points and bureaucratic scrores in the month’s general body meeting. And the NMMC could not have done anything as they had paid only Rs. 50 Crore for Morbe Dam that too without any legal agreement. * 2004 MAY May 2004 was the first time that the ground realities of Morbe Dam were exposed when a delegation of NMMC officials and public representatives paid an inspection visit to Morbe Dam to see the status of the work completed. The meet was headed by the then Municipal Commissioner Ramesh Ubale and brought to light NMMC’s failure to meet deadlines of completing the first phase of the project. * 2004 JUNE In 2004 the corporators started putting up hoardings to steal credit of the Morbe Dam in lieu of the municipal elections that were scheduled for 2005. * 2004 NOVEMBER Mayor Sanjeev Naik called for a press conference to announce that Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar would officially hand over the 1st phase of the Rs. 553 Crores Morbe Dam to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation. * 2004 NOVEMBER Later the same month, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar along with a galaxy of ministers performed a puja at the Morbe Dam site and then later in a grand ceremony, every leader presented boasted of 24X7 water supply from Morbe waters that was a blessing to Navi Mumbai. This was a part of NCP’s campaigning for the municipal elections then. * 2005 NOVEMBER Nothing much happened on the Morbe front again for a year till November 2005’s general body meeting. This meeting approved the deferred payment proposal for the Rs.168 Crores, Phase 3 of the NMMC water supply scheme, inspite of the details of the dimensions of the pipes to be laid and details of the roads to be dug for the same remained to be clarified by the engineering section, as also the source of funds to be generated * 2006 JANUARY – DECEMBER Without much progress on the Morbe Dam work, the entire of 2006 like the previous years saw most nodes complaining of water shortage. JANUARY Residents of sector 28, Vashi are faced acute water shortage. DECEMBER Water crisis grew worse. Apart from impure water, there were also complaints about highly low pressure and sometimes no water supply at all. * 2007 FEBRUARY 2007 was the year when NMTV News aired back to back reports on the sub standard and poor quality of pipeline work that was being done by NMMC to connect Morbe Dam from Kalamboli to Digha. The pipelines that were rejected with a capital “R” were fearlessly being placed by the contractor throughout the city. * 2007 NOVEMBER NMTV News exposed some more shortcomings of the Morbe Dam project t the Bokadpada Water Purification Plant. Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran officers informed NMTV News that to make the purification plant functional it would require atleast a year’s time. That would mean apart from : Rs. 550 Crores – Purchase Cost Rs. 211 Crores – Kalamboli Digha Pipeline Work Rs. 50 Crores – Internal pipelines work Rs. 7 Crores – Electrical work NMMC would have to spend nearly a 100 Crore for purification plant. * 2007 NOVEMBER In the same month, Commissioner Vijay Nahata had assured that Navi Mumbai would get water by May 2008. * 2008 FEBRUARY 2008 proved to be another year of not very good news from the water front. Though Commissioner Vijay Nahata ensured that the pipeline work was expedited at the earliest, acute water shortage continued to be reported with residents of Turbhe being forced to drink water from city gutters. * 2008 MARCH The very next month, Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik opened the tap to Morbe water till Vashi and boasted that the dam was an achievement for NMMC. And we also caught up with first Mayor Sanjeev Naik who again gave a new date for 24 hours water supply. This time of October 2008. * 2008 MARCH The inauguration of the pipeline till Vashi was marred as within 10 days of the ceremony two reports of pipe bursts were reported exposing poor quality work being done by the contractor. The year proved to become a saga of reports on the alleged corruption, mis-management and sub standard work done in the project. * 2008 MAY After assembly elections, municipal elections, politicians including Arun Gujrati and former Home Minister R R Patil continued to use Morbe dam as a scoring point in the Belapur Lok Sabha by elections. NCP’s Sanjeev Naik however lost the elections to Sena’s Anand Paranajpe. * 2008 OCTOBER The year also came to an end on a bad note as there were reports that Morbe water was impure. These reports were outright rubbished by NMMC Commissioner Vijay Nahata. However, later the MPCB endorsed the report and stated that Morbe water was indeed impure and unfit for human consumption. * 2008 OCTOBER The same month Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik promised that citizens would get 24 hours water supply from Diwali in 2008. * 2009 JANUARY This month another name was included in the list of bureaucrats and leaders boasting of solving water woes from Morbe Dam – this was MCGM Commissioner Dr. Jairaj Pathak who made blatantly misguiding statements of addressing Mumbai water problems with water from Morbe Dam. Political leaders of Navi Mumbai however were soon to react and counter attack the MCGM demands for Morbe waters. * 2009 10, JANUARY The truth of today is that – NMMC has aggressively pursued the possession of Morbe Dam with Irrigation and Water Supplies Minister Ajit Dada Pawar. This will however, take atleast two months. The corporation has spent nearly a 1000 Crores on the project and yet every officer and politician is avoiding confrontation on the date of 24X7 water supply from Morbe. In all its probability, we will go into next elections again hearing of promises of 24X7 water supply from Morbe Dam.

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