YUVA’s Work On Water Rights

YUVA has been significantly involved in realizing the Right to Water in Mumbai. Our interventions target the water reforms of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) through mass participation and advocacy, research and legislative interventions.


Community based intervention and Advocacy

In 2005 the MCGM initiated a pilot project of the Water Distribution Improvement Project (WDIP) in K (East) Ward; this project aimed at exploring Public-Private Partnerships in water distribution. As a part of this project the MCGM held consultations with various stakeholders. However, YUVA noticed that people’s representation in this process was minimal; therefore we initiated two forums during this period: (i) Mumbaipaani, a city-level forum of people’s movements, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and experts to intervene in the form of analysis, advocacy and lobbying, and (ii) Paani Haq Abhiyan, a campaign of residents and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in K-east ward for political action on Water Distribution Improvement Project (WDIP).

In collaboration with these two forums, citizens voiced their concerns about the project and in the third stakeholder consultation on 13 November 2007; the MCGM withdrew the proposed initiative. Instead, in 2009, it started the Sujal Mumbai Abhiyan accepting that they should improve the governance within the water department, instead of privatizing distribution.

Soon the Sujal Mumbai Abhiyaan saw increased involvement of private contractors and consultants. It also introduced pre-paid water meters for urban poor communities. YUVA along with Mumbai Paani and Pani Haq Abhiyaan raised concerns over this concept and demanded regular water connection to all communities in Mumbai. As a result, the pre-paid water meters were scrapped.

However, the issue of discrimination in water distribution based on tenure status remained a serious concern for residents of slums (post-2000) of Mumbai. In this light, Pani Haq Samiti was constituted as a united force (comprising residents, activists and CBOs) to raise the issue of equitable water access to all irrespective of tenure status. We also facilitated groups in Nagpur to respond to the water privatization agenda of their Municipal Corporation.


In 2001, YUVA and Montgomery Watson conducted a Slum Sanitation survey in Mumbai. One finding from the study was the lack of proper water supply in about 17 slums housing about 100,000 people. In such situations, the report stated, there is near total dependence on the purchase of water from informal water vendors, or on obtaining water from long distances. To further explore this issue, YUVA (Consultancy) conducted a study “Pricing for the Poor – Actualizing the Human Right to Water in Mumbai”, for South Asia Network of Economic Research Institutes (SANEI) in 2005.

Other studies on the impact of lack of access to water in slums have found that most people purchase water from the water mafia, which charges up to 250 times the price of water. Therefore, water has become a financial burden on families who spend as much as 30 to 40 percent of their income on water. These studies have also shown that the education of scores of children have been deeply impacted, as often they bear the burden of collecting water from far or are involved in selling water on cycles. Additionally, adverse impacts on health were recorded due to lack of consumption of water; moreover, skin diseases are rampant as water used for bathing is often collected from very poor sources.

Legislative Intervention

In October 2011, a Public Interest Litigation was filed by the Pani Haq Samiti challenging the circular of the Maharashtra Urban Development Department that denied piped water to ‘all unauthorized structures’. The final judgment was a historic one, where the bench stated that in upholding of Article 21 (Right to Life), whether homes are deemed ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ it is the responsibility of the government to provide water to all. By reinforcing the intrinsic relationship between water and life, the judgment established that the right to water is as fundamental as the right to life. Till date there has been no law in urban India that mandates water to all.

As interim relief the court ordered that the Municipal Corporation formulates a policy for providing piped water supply to the occupants of post-2000 slums. The Municipal Corporation was to formulate this policy by February 2015, however it has been delaying the submission of this policy and procedural rules for regulating access to water for all. Currently the MCGM Standing Committee is deliberating the formulation of this policy.

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