Ujjani Reservoir: People’s Initiative for Protection of Water Quality



  • International Lake Environment Committee Foundation (ILEC) and Shrishti Eco-Research Institute


  • 22/03/2012

  • REGION :

  • Southern Asia


  • India (Maharashtra)


  • Lake Yeshwantsagar created by Ujjani Dam backwaters in South Maharashtra, India on Bhima River is a case of downstream rural water rights trampled by gross lacunae in upstream urban culture, city and regional planning of entire catchment. ILEC’s inclusion of Yeshwantsagar as Ujjani Lake in World Lake Vision in 2007 has crystallized involvement and activism – synergizing its regional network partners through field visits, actions, workshops and strategic meetings; creating a platform for catalysis of multiple functional initiatives towards an integrated empowered lake basin sustainability end-game. Upstream urban – rural differences of Infrastructure, Technology, Economy and Culture (ITEC) has severely threatened ecological health of Yeshwantsagar Lake. A sustainability solutions approach with existing initiatives revealed three major threads of synergy namely – rural – rural (integrating 200 villages – Jalbiradari water rights initiative); urban – rural (water festivals – Mutha River Jalmaitri – water friendship and Bhima River Jaldindi – water pilgrimage); and urban – urban (Ramnadi-model stream eco-restoration on 150 streams in Pune – upstream city and joint ward level zero garbage initiative by corporates, Non–government Organisations and Government Organisations in Pune). Strategic thinking for furthering the synergy on water issues, across all existing threads inclusive of above three, revealed that research and networking needed to be intensified in educational, cultural, professional, corporate, social, scientific, technological, spiritual and governance approaches. It can be concluded that as a leading illustration of how people’s involvement created a comprehensive foundation of lifestyle transformations across all dimensions of a lake basin population, the Yeshwantsagar lake’s sustainability programme stands as a unique current example. Urban initiatives can be complemented by the application of eco-technological solutions for non-point sources of pollution in the rural areas to restore the quality of Ujjani Lake with local monitoring of biodiversity. This is an empirical application of the concept of ecosystem productivity for sustainable living of large population along the Ujjani Lake.


  • Ujjani pollution, people’s initiative, biodiversity monitoring, protection of water quality, sustainable living


  • Sandeep Joshi Masters in Environmental Sciences, and Doctoral work I in river sediments and Doctoral work II in water and wastewater technologies; total experience of 24 years in the field of environmental monitoring impact analysis, pollution treatment, and ecological restoration of rivers and lakes; innovated eco-technological treatment systems for point and non-point sources of pollution; working on Ujjani Reservoir’s issues of pollution and enrichment of nutrients from last 10 years.


In a decade, water quality of 7 rivers of Pune – namely Mula, Mutha, Pawana, Indrayani, Ram, Ambil and Nagzari deteriorated over the period of time with respect to two critical parameters – Dissolved Oxygen (very important of life in water body) and fecal coli forms (very important for indication of human pathogens).

Dissolved oxygen in the above mentioned rivers reduced to zero from last 7 years in non-monsoon period and fecal coli forms have increased ten thousand times from zero to more than millions in the river waters up to Ujjani Reservoir. Risk of water borne diseases has increased several times in the downstream of Pune city (among the million population using Ujjani’s water for drinking purposes).

Organic pollution is mostly attributed to upstream urban growth where untreated sewage is thrown into the rivers before the Ujjani Lake. Industrial pollution more of toxic in nature has damaged the ecosystem severely downstream of Pune city. Wastewater discharge (untreated or partially treated) into the rivers carrying water to Ujjani Lake has almost doubled in last 10 years. In 2000, wastewaters discharged from Pune-Pimpri-Chinchwad and industries were about 700 MLD but in 2011, it is about 1500 MLD. There is severe problem of leachate from unscientifically developed and managed solid waste dumping sites viz. Urali Devachi, Moshi etc.

Many villagers noticed that the hazardous gases (including methane, hydrogen sulphide etc) erupting from Ujjani Lake many times in the year indicating the deteriorated ecological health of the water body. It is estimated in one study that about 5000 tons of methane gas is generated annually due to accumulation of pollution in the Ujjani Lake. Villagers (of about 200 villages) along the polluted stretches of rivers in Ujjani Basin downstream of Pune city are compelled to drink tube well water which has high concentration of hardness (a cause of kidney stone). Concentration in the tube wells / wells along ranged from 400 – 800 mg/L while the drinking water standard for hardness is 300 mg/L. It is also noticed that brittleness of bones, dental problems among the children and aged groups were prevalent.


  1. Bhima River downstream of Ujjani Lake does not have ecological flow to maintain its biodiversity and to provide sufficient water to the villages along the bank. Whatever water flows in the river, the pollution levels are very high with foul odours. About 50 types of fishes lost due to pollution and introduction of exotic species. There is enormous growth of unwanted weed – water hyacinth leading to ecological elimination of freshwater biodiversity.
  2. Bhima River at Pandharpur is laden with sewage from the city and open defecation. On 21st Aug. 2011, at 4.00 pm the river water was tested for Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Total Hardness and Nitrates using simple test kits. DO was 2 – 3 mg/L, hardness 300 mg/L and nitrates 10 mg/L. This implies that the water is not potable. Both the banks of the river were very dirty, people have thrown enormous wastes.
  3. River and well-water samples were tested in Pandharpur, Sangam, Babhulgaon, Wafegaon, Malinagar, Patwardhan Kuroli, Akluj, Modnimb, and Madha. Except Madha, at every location hardness of the river water was in the range of 300 – 400 mg/L and hardness of well water and tube well water ranged between 350 – 750 mg/L. Concentration of nitrates of the river was 10 – 50 mg/L. Near Patwardhan Kuroli the concentration of nitrates was highest.
  4. River was highly eutrophicated with algal blooms near Patwardhan Kuroli. People of this village complained about the miscarriages of cows, buffalos due to dirty, unclean, non drinkable and polluted water. Children were found to be anaemic. About 200 patients due to water-borne diseases visit 5 doctors’ dispensary every day in a village of 4500 population. Really, the health of villagers is in bad shape in Patwardhan Kuroli when our team discussed with the group of villagers and senior citizens gather here to understand cause of Bhima River pollution in the meeting.
  5. At many places, villagers complained about direct discharge of spent wash in the river. At many places including Nira-Narsinhapur, the river was found to be polluted with foul odours. People have deep fear about the pollution in the river.
  6. Fear of the river pollution is compelling the people to drink the hard well or bore well water which the cause of kidney stones. Higher nitrates in the water are leading to anaemic conditions. Algal Growth is responsible for toxic releases in the river water. Many of the villages don’t have adequate water treatment facilities.
  7. It can be concluded that the urban pollution from upstream metros, excessive use of fertilizers and discharges of sugar-distillery wastewaters are affecting the health and agro-economy severely. Lot peoples complained about that, There is no control by State Govt’s senior officials on civic bodies, i.e. PMC, PCMC, OTHER NAGARPALIKA & MIDC etc those which are responsible for water pollution.
  8. Incessant sand mining despite of legal bans is a major cause of accidental death of women and children who are mistakenly approach deeper stretches of river for washing or bathing.

Impacts of the Ujjani/Bhima River Pollution

Deterioration of public health – unhealthy life – severe and long term impact on babies and children…

Deterioration of agricultural production – loss of economy, decreasing yield from agriculture sector and from cash crops also, like cane sugar….

Deterioration of groundwater – future loss of health and economy, problems occurred in front of livestock…

Ecological loss of biodiversity….

Population explosion and industrialization could not be matched by civil systems and services in the Ujjani reservoir’s huge catchment totalling about 14,500 sq. km where 56% of the population is residing on just 4% land. Wastes arising from such profusely populated areas finally find it way down to Ujjani reservoir about 200 km downstream.

The water resources development and management in Upper Bhima Basin make it one of the rigorously developed river basins in the country. Most of the rivers and their tributaries in the region irrespective of their sizes have been impounded by now and total water sector development has reached a saturation point. This situation also makes the basin susceptible to water stress due to failure of monsoon or alterations in raining patterns linked with global warming and climate change.

Today, in many regions, it can be observed that agriculture sector receives the sewage and waste water generated by the cities and townships. While allocating higher quantum of water to urban areas, it was agreed that adequate sewage treatment would be carried out before discharging water into rivers. However, this never happened for want of awareness & investments and due to lopsided socio-economic and political priorities. Thus, pollution and environmental degradation of Ujjani Lake is basically an issue linked with failure of good environmental governance.

Integrated Lake Basin Management (ILBM) attempts to assist lake basin managers and stakeholders in achieving sustainable management of lakes and their basins. It takes into account that lakes have a great variety of resource values whose sustainable development and use require special management considerations for their lentic (static) water properties.

Good basin management of a lake underlines continuous improvement of lake basin governance that integrates institutions, policy, participation, science, technology and funding. Improvement of the state of lakes can be realized by promoting ILBM, with long-term and strong political commitment.

Ujjani Lake Basin’s Key Challenges of Sustainable Management

Challenge 1: Equity vs. Variability and Scarcity

Extreme variability of precipitation and water scarcity makes the UBB, drought-prone. The basin is intensively harvested by constructing 17 major dams in the Western high rain fall zone and this water is supplied to water-scarce downstream region. However, the demand-supply situation has reached a saturation point and any change in this balance can lead to water conflicts.

Challenge 2: Satisfying the changing pattern of competing water demands

Competing water demands in two key sectors viz., ever-growing urban centres and agriculture, have still not stabilized in the Ujjani Basin. Population growth is leading to urbanization on the one hand and demand for more food is putting pressure on agriculture. Balancing the demands of these two key sectors is the biggest challenge in governance.

Challenge 3: Investment for sewage treatment

With increasing water supply to urban areas the quantum of sewage generated is also increasing proportionately. The sewage, if properly treated can be a resource for down stream agriculture. This needs large scale investment in to the sewage treatment infra-structure and sustained budgetary allocation for running costs and maintenance.

Challenge 4: Integration of technologies with eco-technologies – A green approach

The cost-effective and eco-friendly eco-technologies have the potential to complement the technological interventions. As a matter of fact, the whole stretch of river Bhima can be effectively used for sewage treatment through the eco-technological approach. Such an integration of technology and eco-technology depends on change in the mindset of people managing the water resources.

Challenge 5: Tackling the issue of toxic industrial solid and liquid waste (industrial effluents)

Industrial waste, both solid and liquid, poses a special problem of toxicity depending on in-puts and processes. The waste water generated by industrial areas like Pimpri-Chinchawad in the basin is responsible for making river water unfit for agriculture downstream. Propagation of the concept of Green Industry is essential with zero waste discharge and effective recycle and reuse of the resources.

Challenge 6: Resolution of urban-rural conflict

Increasing supply of water for urban and industrial use around ever growing Pune city has been at the cost of corresponding reduction of supply of water for irrigation. Inadequately treated polluted water is being used for growing seasonal crops and vegetables on large scale. It must be reflecting in the form of poor health and pressure on public health system and loss of productive man-hours and overall health of population.

Challenge 7: Mitigation of pollution impact on Ujjani reservoir and its command

The huge command area of Ujjani reservoir has in it, the very important pilgrimage centre, Pandharpur, which is annually visited by millions of people. Pollution of Ujjani has adverse impacts on the health and well-being of those pilgrims and resident population. In the last few years, farmers in the command have approached courts complaining against inadequate water-supply from the dam even for drinking purpose.

Challenge 8: Protection of Ujjani bird sanctuary

The reservoir has surface area of 29,000 ha and based on its high primary productivity, is showing sure signs of eutrophication. Thus, there is a need for the introduction of sustainable aquaculture. Further, Ujjani Lake is supporting more than 100 species of avian fauna including spoon bills, ibis, shovellers, flamingos, spot billed ducks, pintails, cormorants, painted storks etc. Pollution of the reservoir is having devastating impacts on the sanctuary.

Challenge 9: Utilization of biological resources of the lake

The lake, due to higher levels of nutrients (Nitrates and phosphates) reaching it through sewage-rich water, is highly productive and this high productivity needs to be channelized for food productivity through scientific promotion of reservoir fishery. The traditional fisherman community associated with the lake needs to be given training in modern techniques for maximization of fish production.

Challenge 10: Development of Eco-tourism, educational activities and awareness campaigns

The lake value can be enhanced through development of eco-tourism by developing recreational facilities. These developments have potential to generate jobs in service sector for livelihood of the otherwise impoverished rural communities. Following actions would be needed inclusive of Integrated Lentic and Lotic Basin Management (IL2BM) with sustainable livelihood initiatives:

  • Scope of lentic and lotic catchment area development, policy and planning must include – river culture, river science, river engineering, river technology and objective evaluation of sustainable livelihood and growth of every stakeholder inclusive of man, ecosystem and lentic and lotic body
  • Demarcation of lentic and lotic catchment area with public participation for definitive mapping uniformly shared among various stakeholders
  • Continued compilation, verification, and documentation of information about developmental processes significantly altering the lentic and lotic catchment area
  • Integrated water resources conservation and management for achieving the water balance
  • Review and modify existing policies, definitions, laws, rules, regulations and guidelines for catchment conservation, protection and development measures with inputs from all affected stakeholders especially the women and poor, marginalized populations
  • In the wake of limited success of conventional technologies and chemical intervention in maintaining the river clean for sustainable development, the natural eco-remediation potential in the lentic and lotic catchment area can be harnessed and optimized
  • Strengthening of auditing system for evaluation of lentic and lotic – catchment area development projects/initiatives by ensuring involvement of societal wisdom and people’s participation
  • Local geo-cultural factors affecting the health of lentic and lotic catchment area unique to a lake catchment and identified by societal wisdom and local population must also be considered under the catchment-protection and development laws and rules

Results of Some Initiatives

Some initiatives were taken with the contribution from non-government organizations, professionals and supporting small donors to remediate the polluted urban drains. It is observed that as the treatment progresses, the dissolved oxygen level in the water increases leading to gradual improvement in the water body.

It is observed that the installation of green bridge in 2005 – grafting of ecosystem filter to improve self-purification capacity of stream assisted in increasing algal diversity from 1 to 18 in just 3 days in the highly polluted drain. In another installation of green bridges on polluted stream in 2009-10 promoted the growth of vegetables and scented grasses. Thus the application of green bridges and ecosystem approach can become source of income for the local people.


Water Availability Basin Area: 14,500 sq. Km having different land use patterns – urban, rural, agricultural, industrial and natural forestRainfall: 1000 mm (average assumed considering variability)

Total water availability: 14,500,000,000,000 lit./annum (14.5 cubic km – About 40 years’ total of requirement of Pune’s present population)

Net water availability: 7,250,000,000,000 lit./annum (7.2 cubic km considering the average runoff coefficient of 0.5)

Water-use and wastewater generation (in MLD)


% Water use for modern agriculture annually with respect to net water availability in the basin (about 460,000 ha) 76.14
% Water for human activities excluding agriculture annually with respect to net water availability in the basin 8.7
% Wastewater generation = Wastewater/Water Supply x 100 71.86
% Wastewater Treatment = Treated water/wastewater generated x 100 56.28
% Claimed sewage treatment in urban sector of Ujjani Reservoir (With respect to total wastewater generated) 44.59
% Claimed industrial wastewater treatment in industrial sector of Ujjani Reservoir (With respect to total wastewater generated) 11.21
% of sewage in the untreated wastewater flowing into the rivers 86.38

Observations on the available data and water balance sheet

  • No data on groundwater consumption for human activities is included due to unavailability.
  • If safe drinking parameters (including faecal coliforms) to be considered, then the sewage needs at least 100 times dilution in the river. (Considering the simple disinfection techniques available in the rural areas of Ujjani Reservoir). This much dilution is not available in the Ujjani Basin.
  • In the present calculations, the contaminated runoffs from agricultural fields are not considered.


Result of sampling of river waters upstream and downstream of Ujjani Reservoir, 2005

Sr. No.

Sampling Station

Fecal coliform concentration nos. / 100 ml





Temgharwadi (Mutha river – origin)



Khadakwasla dam



Vitthalwadi (Pune)



Deccan Causeway (Pune)



Kumbharwada (Pune)



Bundgarden (Pune)



Mundhwa (Pune)



Manjri (Pune)






Urli Kanchan



Rohu Pimpalgaon



























Ujni dam



Bhima river Narsimhapur



Pirachi wadi








*(This table has more sampling stations as compared to the graph above)


Ujjani Reservoir or Bhima Irrigation Project, on the Bhima River which is a tributary of the Krishna River, is located near Ujjani village of Madha Taluk in Solapur district of the Maharashtra State, India.

Coordinates: 18o 04’26”N 75o07’12”E

Website Links












  • Joshi, Sandeep (2003) Analysis report of river samples collected during 2nd Jal Dindi expedition submitted to Maharashtra Pollution Control board and Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of Maharashtra.
  • Joshi, Sandeep (2004) Report published in Indian Express on Pune’s Dead Rivers
  • Joshi, Sandeep & Jog, Avadhoot (2005) Analysis report of river samples collected during 3rd Jal Dindi expedition from rise of Mutha river to Pandharpur submitted to Jal Dindi Pratishthan, Pune.
  • Joshi, Sandeep (2007) Sustainable Management Plans for Urban Lakes in India. Paper presented in World Lake Conference held at Jaipur by Ministry of Environment and Forests of India and ILEC.
  • Joshi, Sandeep (2008) Analysis report of river samples collected during Jal Dindi expeditions from 2002 to 2008 submitted to Maharashtra Pollution Control board and Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of Maharashtra.
  • Joshi, Sayali & Joshi, Sandeep (2009) Ecoplanning and eco-technological solutions for the wastewaters from point and non-point sources of modern urbanization in the Ujjani Reservoir Catchment, 13th World Lake Conference, organised by ILEC & CSES in Wuhan, China, Nov. 2009.
  • Ranade, Vidayand (2007) Lake Management – Issues and Challenges – A Case Study of Ujjani Reservoir in Maharashtra (India). World Lake Vision Action report. pp. 217 – 224.
  • Supate, A. R. (2008) Zoning Atlas Report for Pune District submitted to Government of Maharashtra.