Mumbai: Railway Ministry is working on a plan to utilise its unused wagons to transport water from Ujjani dam near Pandharpur to water-starved Latur city and district, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said on Monday.
The operation is cost-intensive and the Railway officials are expected to call the state government officials within a week to work out the modalities, he said.
"Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu and his officials officials are working out modalities to allocate unused railway wagons to transport water from Ujjani dam near Pandharpur to Latur city and district hit by water scarcity. The state government has urged the Railways to either reduce the transportation cost or transport it for free as a humanitarian cause," Khadse said.
On the imposition of prohibitory orders in Latur, Khadse clarified that the orders have been issued only at locations where filling of water tankers is going on.
"People were gate crashing in, causing destruction to pipes and forcibly taking away water. Therefore, prohibitory orders have been imposed at these filling sites and not across the city," he said.
Replying to queries, Khadse said extra water has been stored in Ujani dam that is meant for usage during the annual Ashadhi Ekadashi pilgrimage to Pandharpur.
"However, now the excess water reserved for the pilgrimage does not serve any purpose now and could be diverted to Latur. The cost of supplying water by railway wagon costs around Rs 1.5 crore per wagon. The government will require at least 10 such tankers to bring water all the way from Pandharpur to Latur by railway," he said.
According to him, another logistical problem is to lift and pump the water from Chandrabhaga river, which is not close to Pandharpur city.
"Besides this, there is just one single railway line that goes to Haragul station close to Latur and although there is a water treatment plant there, additional storage capacity will have to be created there," he said.
Replying to another query, Khadse said there is water source available within the radius of 35-kms from Latur at Dongargaon barrage, Nimna Terna dam and Dhanegaon barrage.
"At present, water is being supplied to Latur at an interval of seven days. The drinking water problem is not that acute in rural Latur, where villages get water after every three to four days," he said.
The minister said that Latur city alone has around 4,000 handpumps, of which half of them have gone dry.
At present, around 70 odd tankers are in operation supplying drinking water to Latur and surrounding areas.
"The government can also acquire milk tankers from dairies, which have an capacity to carry 60,000 to one lakhliters of water. Besides there are some water tankers that can carry 25,000 liters of water, which also can be pressed into service till the monsoons arrives," Khadse said. PTI