Why are residents of Raheja Gardens still thirsty?

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Ravi Karandeekar

Oct 12, 2012, 3:10:54 AM10/12/12
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 'Water Affidavits' between PMC & Builder

It’s an undertaking that is un-civic at best, and shady at the other end of the spectrum. While the Bombay High Court has directed the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to reply to it over not providing clean drinking water to nearly 5,000 residents of Raheja Gardens housing complex in Wanowrie, the civic body itself is fighting shy of taking a stand.
    The PMC gives the go-ahead to housing projects in areas where the civic body clearly states its inability to provide clean drinking water after the builder undertakes to provide the same. However, in case of violations of the undertaking by the builder, there is little the PMC will do for the aggrieved flat owner apart from some friendly advice.
    PMC superintending engineer (Water Supply) Narendra Salunke said, “In case there is a violation of the undertaking (to provide water) by the builder, the flat owners can approach a consumer court. If the complaint comes to us, we can take action, like withholding building permission for future projects by the offending builder after verifying the charges. We have not maintained records of how many such societies have been built based on this undertaking.”
    One of the oldest housing complexes in the city, Raheja Gardens comprises 945 flats. 
The residents had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on February 21, 2012 after it was revealed via an RTI query that Raheja Builders and PMC had signed a development agreement, which stated that the construction of the scheme is allowed on the condition that it was the builder’s responsibility to supply water to all buildings in the layout, instead of the PMC.
    The PIL named the municipal commissioner, Raheja Builders Group, the superintendent engineer of PMC’s water supply and drainage department and others as respondents in the case. In their petition, residents have claimed that although they are paying water tax of Rs 12 lakh every year, PMC is denying them their basic right. On July 19 this year, the HC had directed Raheja Builders to look into the matter and take appropriate steps.
    However, residents are now alleging that the builder is still supplying contaminated water, mixing it with PMC-provided potable water. They also furnished a laboratory analysis of the water, which stated that it is not fit for drinking.
    Prakash Walde, a petitioner and resident, said, “I have purchased a water filter twice in one month. When the first purifier broke down, the company changed it during the guarantee period. When I insisted that the machine be changed again, the sales manager inspected the machine and told us that the water quality is very bad and no purifier will sustain in such water.”
    A resident of Dahlia Society in Raheja Gardens, Mohammed Sayeed Merchant, 
said, “Water supplied by the builder is not potable. I buy mineral water for daily consumption as I have small children. It’s very expensive to buy water everyday.” 
  A J Mistry, secretary of Lily Society, said, “The water provided by the builder is so filthy that water purifiers break down. The builder’s new system to chlorinate it is also not appropriate. It is our basic right to get clean drinking water. We are the highest taxpayers here and are paying water tax too.”
    The petition stated the PMC has not been supplying water though it is its responsibility as per the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, and that Raheja Builders hid the fact about the development agreement at the time of handing over possession.
    The PIL further stated, “The source of water is by an underground stream, which has seepage from a nearby sewage canal. It is an open canal where dogs, cats, pigs urinate. Solid waste including sanitary napkins, animal carcasses are dumped in it. The same water is alleged to be ‘treated’ and supplied to the residents of Raheja Gardens Complex.” 

    Advocate for the petitioners, Shirin Merchant, also a resident, said, “We have prayed that the court be pleased to issue a Writ of Mandamus under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, 1950, directing the respondent PMC and Raheja Builders to immediately start supplying adequate potable and pure drinking water to all the residents of the said Raheja Gardens Complex.”
    The PIL prayed to direct the PMC to permanently refrain itself from sanctioning building plans based on undertakings given by builders and developers that they shall supply water to flat buyers.
    It urged to direct that the civic body make it mandatory for such builders to annexe a copy of such undertakings to the flat booking agreements, to ensure that flat buyers are informed about such an undertaking. The builder should regularly issue public notices in this regard in leading local newspapers, as well publish the names of such constructions on its websites permanently to be viewed by prospective flat purchasers.
    The PIL urged that the PMC should refund the water tax that it has been collecting from the residents of Raheja Gardens Complex since its inception, showing the amounts received from each tenement.
    A Peerzada, project manager with Raheja Builders, Pune and Sanjay Shinolikar, general manager, said they cannot comment on this issue as the matter is sub-judice. “The court will decide the further course of action. We have been providing clean water right from the first day,” Peerzada said. 

    Salunke added, “We’re yet to receive a copy of the HC order. We’ll submit to the court that we are ready to supply potable water after the existing water supply network is adequately expanded. As per the undertakings, till date the responsibility of water supply is with the builder.”
    Advocate Aroona Nafday, convenor, Pune Forum for Flat Owners (PUFO), said, “There is no provision in any Act or in the DC rules that water cannot be supplied to residents. It is mandatory that the PMC supply water, as it is a basic right. We’re hopeful the decision will be in favour of the concerned residents. Sanctioning of building projects should not be given if there is a water crisis. The concerned builder and PMC engineer should be slapped with criminal cases, as this is cheating.”

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