The Bombay High Court has rapped the Mumbai and Maharashtra cricket associations for scheduling 19 of the 60 matches to be held during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur even as the state reels under severe water scarcity.
The court stated that Maharashtra ought to prioritise its water usage according to its water usage policy in times of water crises. The policy gives primacy to the provision of drinking water to people of the state.
A division bench of the High Court chaired by Justice V M Kanade made the statement in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Loksatta Movement and others which stated that as much as 6 million litres of water were proposed to be used to prepare pitches in the three venues.
According to the petition, “The state is going through the worst kind of drought in a century and is facing acute water shortage. There is already a scarcity of drinking water and for sanitation purposes, but the state government, Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation have not raised any objection to the proposed wastage.”
The PIL also noted that the decision to host a third of the tournament in the state violated both the National Water Policy as well as the State Water Policy by undermining the requirement of water for other critical activities such as drinking and cooking.
Water levels in reservoirs in Maharashtra on March 31, 2016 were close 60 per cent below normal levels according to the latest Central Water Commission report on storage levels of reservoirs.
According to media reports, the bench admonished authorities of the cricket associations saying, “How can you waste water like this? Are people more important or IPL? How can you be so careless? This is criminal wastage. You know the situation in Maharashtra.” The court also reportedly said that the cricket matches should ideally be moved out of Maharashtra to a place where there isn’t any water crisis if there are no plans to save water.
The court also stated that the responsibility of eliminating wastage of water lay with the state government and asked the Fadnavis government to list what steps were planned to ensure this.
For its part, the Mumbai Cricket Association sought more time to take instructions and asserted that the fact that tickets had already been sold needed to be considered as well. The hearing is set to continue on Thursday.
The first match of the IPL 2016 edition is scheduled to begin on April 9, in Mumbai.