With water on everyone’s mind, Priyal Dave discovers a truly singular man in Tehmool Manekshaw Kandawalla
Mumbai has a hidden treasure. ‘Hidden’ since very little is known about him and his contribution to this city. Temool Maneskshaw Kandawalla is credited with carrying out the biggest water augmentation scheme in Asia – Bhatsai S - and the biggest water treatment plant in the world in 1981 – Master Balancing Reservoir (MBR), both of which took care of Mumbai’s water requirements.
Kandawalla is now 94 years of age and regretfully too frail to talk about his achievements. But even if he could, it is doubtful if he would say muchr, he wouldn’t talk about it. Those who know him call him ‘modest’…so modest that his invaluable contribution continues to elude the world of Google.
This jewel of BMC’s water works department, retired from the post of Chief Engineer (Water Supply Projects) almost 30 years ago in 1981, but not before realizing his Rs 100 crore dream in the form of Bhatsai S- Stage I and MBR.
Kandawalla graduated from th Poona Engineering College and joined the municipal service as an Inspector (works). He was the youngest person to be appointed as the Assistant Engineer in the Water Works Department. In his capacity as Deputy Hydraulic Engineer in 1970, he worked hard to prepare the feasibility report of the first stage of the Bhatsai “S” Scheme. For a technical paper that he had written in the same year, titled “Water Supply Problems in High Rise Buildings”, Kandawalla received an award from the Indian Water Works Association. His efforts and intelligence were recognized by the BMC, which promoted him to the post of Deputy Project Engineer in 1971. In 1972, Kandawalla was appointed as Chief Engineer.
At the time when Kandawalla was in service, the city of Mumbai, like Chennai (then Madras), depended on lakes and ponds for its water supply. Overdrawing of water that lead to rapid depletion of this resource in Chennai, would have been Mumbai’s fate as well. However, the numerous schemes in water supply that were implemented after Independence helped the city keep pace with its growing demand for water.
One such scheme was the Bhatsai S which envisioned a pumping-treatment-conveyance facility at Pise, Panjrapur and Bhandup. The water from Bhatsai was brought to Bhandup’s treatment cum pumping cum reservoir complex, after which it was fed to the rest of the city.
Kandalwalla has been responsible for the full implementation of the Bhatsai Scheme-Stage I, from the time it reached the World Bank appraisal stage in 1973 and finally the commissioning of water supply filtration plant in 1981.
Close to 54 contracts involving Rs.145 crores in the water supply project division were executed under his supervision. Kandawalla was also been instrumental in sorting out all project-related issues posed by the World Bank team during the execution of the project.
His efforts, though forgotten now, were enthusiastically highlighted by the BMC. When he retired on December 12, 1981, the then Standing Committee gave him a high tea reception, which had never been done before for any other officer. Kandawalla’s efforts were also recognized by the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai during the inauguration of the Master Balancing Reservoir.
In a rare interview that Kandawalla had once given a reporter, he said, “It is not everyday that one gets the opportunity to handle the biggest water augmentation scheme in Asia and the biggest treatment plant in the world.” Tehmool Maneckshaw Kandawalla found his job in the BMC “exhilarating and exciting”. Perhaps this is the secret of his success.