Pani Sabka Haq (Right To Water Mumbai)

 Mathematically speaking, there is enough water for everyone in Mumbai as per the service level benchmark of 135 litres daily/person (set by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India) to ensure that basic needs are met and that few health concerns arise. However, nearly two million people living in this city are denied their basic right to water and are left to fend for themselves. 
Approach: I volunteered with Pani Haq Samiti (a peoples movement fighting for the right to water) and visited over 15 informal settlements around the city between 2019 and 2021 to better understand the situation on the ground.
The ongoing project explores the complex realities of how the mismanagement of potable water affects those on the ground and aims to create long term awareness and media advocacy around this problem.

THE WIRE In Photos: For Thousands of Mumbai Residents, Water Supply Is a Distant Dream (
INDIA DEVELOPMENT REVIEW What is the price of water in the city of Mumbai? | IDR (
INDIA WATER PORTAL What is the price of water in the city of Mumbai? | India Water Portal
Disconnected: To the average Mumbaikar, it is a mystery where the water in their taps comes from or how much they actually consume. Water is sold at a heavily subsidised rate of Rs.5(approx) for 1000 litres.

The big flaw: With nearly 70% of the water meters installed in Mumbai defunct, the entire system heavily relies on estimates. It is common practice to split the water bill equally between all the residents in a housing society. This makes it difficult to establish the relationship between the price paid for water and the quantity consumed.

In many informal settlements (half of which are non-notified under the law), families end up paying 40-120 times more that what people living in formal housing societies pay!

The list of paperwork demanded by the MCGM to apply for a legal water connection is extremely exhaustive (includes a no-objection certificate from the landowner, certificate of good character by the local councillor, proof of residence before 2000) and requires five households to apply in a single application. Pictured here, are residents from GTB Nagar (central Mumbai) outside the local ward office who had been following up for over 7 months for a new water connection.

Pictured here a wall painted image of the Hindu god Shiva at the informal settlement of Geeta Nagar in south Mumbai.
Historically, ‘upper’-caste Hindus denying water to people at the bottom of the caste ladder has been a recurrent story in India. Nikhil Anand, author of Hydraulic City, aptly describes the prevalent discrimination that to this day exists in water governance – between those seen as deserving of being citizens and those informally settled in the metropolis. 

It is usually women who must take on the burden of water collection and storage for the household. Pictured in Lower Parel area of Mumbai.

Jai Mati, a tailor from Siddharth Nagar in Andheri West, has persistently tried to secure a water connection for his community through legal means. Pictured here is the list paperwork he has accumulated over 3 years demanded by the BMC as part of his application. Still, Siddharth Nagar does not have a legal water connection.

As the waiting time increased during the pandemic because of social distancing norms, quarrels over the quantity of water allotment or their position in the queue occurred more frequently in informal settlements

A resident of Siddharth Nagar (western suburbs of Mumbai) carries 20 litres, half of the family’s share for the week that was provided by the MCGM. Even during the pandemic, no water was provided by the gated society opposite, and the community was forced to rely on overpriced private suppliers.

Those without a legal connection have no choice but to resort to informal sources and pay several times more. Seen here are floating pipes set up in a cooperative effort by local plumbers and authorities in a low-income settlement in south Mumbai.

Settlers residing on lands owned by the railway are not eligible for a legal water connection as they cannot obtain a NOC. Pictured, a woman who daily crosses 7 tracks on the western railway line daily to fill water from an unknown leak.

A resource or a priced commodity? Water in plastic pouches (sold at Rs.2-3) like these are commonly sought after in many informal settlements. They are generally kept refrigerated by shopkeepers or purchased for the convenience factor to fulfill morning duties. 

Roughly 27 percent of the city’s water is unaccounted for and lost to leakages, faulty meters, and unauthorised connections. Picture: Residents of Geeta Nagar (south Mumbai) rely on an unknown stream outlet to wash their clothes.

A preview trailer made in collaboration with Photography Promotion Trust.

You may also view

Back to Top