Not Holding IPL in Maharashtra Will Meet Water Needs of Latur for 42 Minutes


In yesterday’s column I had explained why holding the Indian Premier League(IPL) T20 cricket tournament, responsible, for the water woes of Maharashtra, is wrong.

The trouble is that no one is using numbers to make an argument. Emotions are running high—and the typical argument against IPL is when there is no water in Latur, how can we waste water on cricket grounds.

But this argument looks at the issue only in absolute terms. It is estimated that the IPL will use around 6 million litres of water. This sounds a lot on its own. But it amounts to only an insignificant amount of the total water used to produce sugarcane in Maharashtra in 2013-2014.

The basic problem is that Maharashtra should not be growing as much sugarcane as it is. Sugarcane is cultivated on less than four percent of the total cropped area in the state but uses 70% of its irrigation water.

Hence, all the noise around IPL being moved out of Maharashtra is essentially nonsense of the worst kind. People who feel for those who do not have water in parts of Maharashtra can do more for them by stopping to waste water in their daily lives, than agitating about this. Also, they should check for water leakages in their building.

Let’s take a look at Latur in a little more detail. An India Today report points out that the daily requirement of water in Latur is 85 litres per person. As per the 2011 census, the population of the Latur district is around 24.6 lakh (2.46 million).

This means the district needs around 209.1 million litres of water every day (85 litres multiplied by 2.46 million). IPL is scheduled between April 9 and May 29, and will use six million litres of water over a period of 51 days in Maharashtra.

During the same period Latur would require 10,664 million litres of water (209.1 million litres multiplied by 51 days). How will not using six million litres of water at IPL help? If I stretch my argument, not allowing IPL in Maharashtra to happen, will essentially save water that is good enough to meet the water needs of Latur for 0.029 days (6 million litres expressed as a proportion of 209.1 million). This essentially means around 42 minutes (0.029 x 24 x 60), if I were to convert it into minutes.

So not allowing IPL in Maharashtra to happen will supply water to the people of Latur for all of 42 minutes. Of course, I am assuming that all the water that is thus saved can be moved to Latur, all at once, and no part of it is evaporated during the process.

The larger point is that there are better things that can be done to save water.

Further, why is no one talking about the huge amount of water that gets wasted everyday due to leakage as well as theft. A March 2016 report in The Times of India offers some data points. The report points out that Mumbai loses 900 million litres of water daily due to leakage and theft.

An August 2015 report in the same newspaper had put the daily leakage of water in Mumbai at 1,012.5 million litres. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation(BMC) terms this leakage as “non-revenue” water, in a classic bureaucratic way.

In this column, I will work with the former estimate of 900 million litres daily leakage, given that it is a more recent one.

I tried looking for the water leakage numbers for Pune and Nagpur where IPL matches are scheduled along with Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra, but I couldn’t find any numbers. Given that I will have to work with only the Mumbai water leakage number.

The IPL started on April 9 and is supposed to go on till May 29. Effectively, it is a tournament that will go on for 51 days. Over 51 days, 45,900 million litres of water (900 million multiplied by 51) would have been lost just in Mumbai. The total number would be higher if we had the leakage numbers for Pune and Nagpur as well. In comparison, the IPL will use only six million litres of water, over 51 days. This works out to 0.013% of the total leakage of water in Mumbai.

If only a part of the leakage could be plugged, the water needs of Latur could be easily met. Why is no one really talking about this?

I know I am exaggerating here with my calculations but this is just to show the absurdity of the issue of moving IPL out of Maharashtra in order to save water. The question that crops up here is that why are the NGOs which have filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court asking for IPL to be moved out of Maharashtra, not taking BMC to task as well?

The ultimate idea should be to stop the wastage of water and considerably huge amount of water is being wasted by leakage and municipal corporations not doing much about it. Why is this discussion not happening?

The BCCI, for once, does not appear to be in a confrontational state. An India Today TV report points out that BCCI is planning to move five matches out of Maharashtra. Of this two matches were scheduled in Pune and three matches in Nagpur.

The three matches that were scheduled to happen in Nagpur are now likely to take place in Mohali in Punjab. Like Maharashtra grows sugarcane, a fairly water-intensive crop, Punjab grows rice. Punjab is a semi-arid region and in an ideal world, rice shouldn’t be grown there, because it needs a lot of water, and there is not a lot of water going around in a semi-arid region.

Like Maharashtra shouldn’t be growing sugarcane, Punjab shouldn’t be growing rice. Punjab uses 5,337 litres of water to grow one kilogram of rice. This is more than double that of West Bengal, which takes 2,605 litres of water to grow one kilogram of rice.

In total Punjab produced 11.1 million tonnes of rice in 2013-2014. So how many litres of water did it use in total? The total amount of water used was 59,240,700 million litres (11.1 million tonnes of rice multiplied by 5,337 litres of water per kg of rice).

Currently, four matches are scheduled at Mohali. The India Today TV report suggests that three matches from Nagpur will be moved to Mohali. This basically means that seven matches will be played in Mohali.

In the public interest litigation that has been filed in the Bombay High Court asking that IPL cricket matches should be moved out of Maharashtra, it has been said for each match three lakh litres of water are needed. As Ankita Verma, the lawyer for the petitioners told “International maintenance for pitch guidelines state that for each match you need three lakh litres [0.3 million] of water for one ground.”

Hence, for seven matches in Mohali, a total of 2.1 million litres of water (0.3 million litres per match multiplied by seven matches) would be needed. This forms around 0.0000035% of water used in Punjab for growing rice.

This is as insignificant as the water to be used for IPL matches in Maharashtra in comparison to the total water used for growing sugarcane. If to save such a small proportion of water, cricket matches can be moved out of Maharashtra, they should be moved out of Punjab as well. The logic is exactly the same.

I know the argument is absurd. But it needs to be made in order to show that the real issues behind the water problem in the country are not being talked about. No one is talking about sugarcane and rice paddy not being the right agricultural crops to be grown in Punjab and Maharashtra. The reason is straightforward, there are political parties which benefit from this.

Further, no one is talking about the astonishing amount of water leakage that happens on a daily basis. While, changing cropping patters is a long term solution, preventing water leakage on a war-footing is a simpler solution, and can be carried out, if the local municipalities get their way around to doing it. The only people who will lose due to this, is the water mafia.

But then this is not as sexy as criticising IPL. I am no fan of BCCI, but IPL is a soft target.

The column originally appeared in the Vivek Kaul Diary on Equitymaster on April 13, 2016

Why bans don’t work

bansThis month, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to suspend the sale of chicken and meat in its markets on two days (down from four days initially), during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan. Several other governments around the country have also decided to do the same.

There are has been a lot of outrage against these decisions on the social media. In Mumbai, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) set up a meat stall on September 10, one of the two days on which the sale was banned.

Of course MNS is a political party and was just trying to score a few brownie points with its political constituency. Nevertheless, the question that crops up here is do bans work? Take the state of Gujarat, where prohibition is in force. Does that mean that alcohol is not available in Gujarat? Anyone who has ever been to the state knows that at best it takes a couple of phone calls and a bootlegger lands up at your door with whatever you want to drink.

The consumption of alcohol is alive and kicking in the state, with the government losing out on all the money that it could have made through taxes. This money is now being made by bootleggers and the police which tends to overlook these indiscretions.

Or take the fact that in India one cannot legally bet on cricket. What has this done? It has led to the creation of a reasonably sophisticated system of betting run by illegal bookies, spread throughout the country. Every few years a betting scandal erupts, there is a lot of noise made around it, until we forget about it and move on to other things.

The way of stopping these betting scandals is to legally allow betting, as is the case through large parts of the world. The government can also make some money through taxes in the process and things don’t need to work at the underground level.

All these transactions are what economists call repugnant transactions. In economics a transaction is referred to as repugnant if “if some people want to engage in it and other people don’t want them to.”

As economist Alvin E. Roth writes in Who Gets What and Why: “Let’s consider one…domain in which repugnant transactions are common: sex. People want to have sex with each other in circumstances that society disapproves of. But when we educate people our children, pass laws, and try to control the transmission of disease, we would be foolish not to recognise that sex is a powerful force…For this reason we sometimes try to promote “safe sex” rather than abstinence.”

Along similar lines the need to eat meat, drink alcohol and gamble, may be repugnant to some, but they are also powerful forces. Certain leaders of the Jain community may not like the idea of other communities eating meat during what is a period of fasting for them. But that doesn’t mean people will stop eating meat.

Alcohol cannot be sold in the state of Gujarat because it is the state where the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi was born, but that doesn’t mean people will stop drinking alcohol.

We may find gambling to be morally wrong, but that doesn’t mean people will stop gambling. Like sex, these are powerful forces. And banning them doesn’t help because then the activity simply moves underground.

As Roth writes: “Banning markets is just one way of trying to control them, and preventing markets is easier legislated than done.” The point being that meat will be sold illegally on days it’s banned or people will simply stock up.

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

The column originally appeared in the Bangalore Mirror on Sep 16, 2015