Mumbai is facing a shortage of water supply. Water lost due to pipe bursts is one reason but it is just a small fraction of what is wasted every day by people pilfering the water.
At Kasarli in Bhiwandi, the pipeline that brings water to Mumbai is riddled with leakages. Huddled beneath the pipe was a crowd of people. Some were filling water in pots and pans, others were taking a bath, while womenfolk were washing clothes.
"Local people have loosened the joints of the pipeline to get a steady flow," a local said. "We have been using this water for five years."
A stone's throw away, a gang of men was seated under the flow of gushing water with a few beer bottles lying around. Each one took turns to take a swig. "This is our waterfall. We are passing our time here," said one youngster.
Further down, there were more leakages. At certain places, water runs down like it does from taps as locals take turns to fill pots and pans. Most of the time, when nobody's filling water, it goes down the drain. Literally.
The pipeline at Powai that takes water to Mumbai and its suburbs had several chinks from which water was oozing out at every few metres in Powai and Marol.
Slumdwellers said they use the water for all domestic purposes. There are leakages and holes after every few metres. This pipeline transports water to households across Mumbai city.
The security personnel appointed by the BMC were absent all along. At Powai, a guard was spotted and, although people were blatantly using water right under his nose, he did little to stop them or the leakage. "I cannot do anything about it," he shrugged.
The BMC area between Powai and Marol is a security zone where no outside vehicles are allowed. An autorickshaw driver said that one can breach the security by paying Rs 10.
On the main Marol pipeline, security guards were lounging around or sitting idle.
The guards said they nab those who make openings in the pipeline but pleaded helplessness when it came to holes or leakages. "That is the BMC's job," said a guard who was manning a stretch of the pipeline.
Given the manner in which the pipeline is being made porous, it should not be tough to contaminate the water.
Also, the water mafia could easily exploit the situation to make money by pilfering water from the pipelines.