My Innings with the Indian Water Works Association

IWWA

Indian Water Works Association (IWWA) was founded in 1968 by late Mr. D R Bhise, retired Hydraulic Engineer at the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC). He was inspired by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) during one of his travels to the United States where he attended the AWWA convention.

After founding the IWWA, Mr. Bhise started the Journal of Indian Water Works Association (JIWWA). The Journal was quarterly and carried around 80 pages. It was printed at the India Printing Works (IPW) owned by Mr Limaye (father of my school batch mate Anand who subsequently took over)

Mr. Bhise was close to the Modak family. He worked with my Late Uncle N V Modak at the BMC. He in fact hosted the first pre-wedding party (Kelavan) to my Father Madhav and Mother Nirmala at the ”Champak”, his pretty house at the Shivaji Park. Bhise was known as a “steel man”, not because he laid the large diameter steel pipelines from the Vaitarna dam (now known as “Modak Sagar”) to the city of Mumbai but because he slapped the face of the contractor on the site when he was offered a bribe! (Can you believe that this will happen now?)

“Champak” was the headquarters of the JIWWA. The JIWWA Team consisted people like G N Ganla who is today the mover and shaker of IWWA Mumbai Center and CES Rao who is now retired from Hindustan Construction Company. They and some more such folks used to do all the labeling and dispatch of the Journal with “chai” being served by Mrs Bhise. Today Ganla tells me that this was real fun and the great times to remember.

I met Mr. Bhise at the “Champak” in 1979. I was just 21 years old. I went to submit a manuscript of the paper that was written by Shirish Naik, me and Late Professor P Khanna. The paper was titled “System Identification in Water Quality Management”. (Looking back I feel that this paper did not fit to the Journal at all and should have been turned down right away. But …)

I rang the bell and Mr. Bhise opened the door. I introduced myself and told him the purpose of meeting. Mr. Bhise took the copies of the typed manuscript, put on the spectacles and glanced through the pages. I was prepared to answer his questions. I was told that Mr. Bhise is tough to deal with when it came to accepting articles for JIWWA.

“You are Madhav’s son – right?” He asked. I nodded.

“Then the paper is accepted. Only ensure that you are not using any complex symbols like alpha or beta in the text as we don’t have such fonts at the India Printing Works. That’s all”

“Now how about some Tea”. The editorial review ended.

I presented the paper at the Annual Convention of IWWA in Delhi. That was my first exposure to the IWWA family. I met stalwarts there such as Late L G Dhaigude (whose wrinkles on the face reflected the kilometers of pipelines he laid), Mr. Arvind Doshi of Indian Hume Pipe (who had a face of the “businessman in sophistication”), Late Mr. S P Unwala of Candy Filters (who had a great sense of Parsi humor) and ever lively John D’cruz, Chief Engineer of Delhi Municipal Corporation, who I thought was always ready to dance!

I enjoyed the Annual convention, made lots of new acquaintances and learnt a lot from the presentations.  I started attending thereon all the IWWA conventions that were held in different parts of the country. In the later phase of my life I was invited  to chair the Sessions at the Convention and gave Key Note addresses. It was all an evolution for me. I kind of “graduated”.

In 1995, Mr. S. R. Kshirsagar, Head of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Hon Editor of the JIWWA invited me on the Editorial Board of JIWWA. I happily accepted this invitation. Indeed, this was an honor to me.

After a few years, I was appointed as the Hon Co-Editor and subsequently in 2000, I took over the post of Hon Editor from Mr. S.R. Kshirsagar. That brought me to the Council of Management (COM) of IWWA.

Editing the JIWWA was a great experience. We used to print around 30 articles in a year including the Annual Convention issue. We used to receive each year around 200 articles. So there was a considerable “pull” and a “competition”.  The accepted articles were queued by a year and I used to be hounded by the Authors and Authors “Godfathers”. I introduced 4 pager pull-outs or inserts in the center section of the Journal on various themes like Private Sector Participation (PSP). These 4 pages were paid pages and so the Journal received some revenue.

Revenue came from advertisements. We did our best to “balance” the printing costs with the revenues from advertisements. But this was not easy. There were two challenges – one was to get advertisements and second challenge was to get the invoices paid in time! (The third challenge was perhaps how to “fit” the advertisement in the PageMaker software to minimize the “white spaces” when the Journal text was laid).

Printing of the Journal in my time was shifted to “Vijay Mudran” from IPW. Vijay Mudran was a fine Printing Press in the Royal Industrial Estate in Wadala in Mumbai. The Press was run by Mr. Madhav Kanitkar. Kanitkar was a Printer par excellence and a perfectionist. He used to tell me that he will only print if he agrees with the text. He does not simply print! So my Editorials used to get under Kanitkar’s lens. He used come up with several red lines and question marks and demand from me explanation on the views I wrote. These discussions used to happen on the mezzanine floor of the Vijay Mudran (where you had to sit down as the ceiling height was only 5 feet) and discussions (or fights!) used to end happily with a well-buttered omelet toast and a badly prepared coffee (with milk burned!). I recall late night or sometimes full night sessions at the Royal Industrial Estate to fix the Journal text and layout with Kanitkar.

Many used to ask me why do I spend so much time to bring out the Journal. This was a job – unpaid.  I used to say that besides the joy and professional satisfaction, editing of the Journal gives me a glimpse on what’s happening in research and practice in India, ahead of time and at least by a year. I realized that this was my edge and I was always up on the curve.

Today, the JIWWA is run by Dr. Ulhas Naik. Ulhas has now put all the Journal issues on the website. This is a great work he has done with the help of Professor S V Ranade of Dynadeep Infotech Pvt. Ltd. You can now upload papers electronically and access all the past articles of the Journal.

Attending Council of Management (COM) meetings used to be very interesting. It gave me a new perspective on the “water politics” and the insight to the personal rivalries. As IWWA was growing, there used to be “tensions” between the personalities and the Local Centers. I noticed at the COM that the “driving forces” were changing over time e.g. initial “mastery” by the BMC, then the “hijack” by Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran (MJP) and then spurts of “oppositions” coming from “free radicals” of Bangalore and Delhi. Many times, I used to drop Mr. Bhise from the COM meetings to “Champak” – he used to have a great laugh in the car and say “Prasad, I never thought that the organization I founded will spend so much time on matters so petty and not address the real professional issues”. Well, this is the most commonly seen situation across associations today.

In 2000, I organized an International Workshop on Private Sector Participation (PSP) in Water Infrastructure on behalf of the Mumbai Center of IWWA. This workshop was organized in Goa. It was an amazing experience for me. The Workshop was timely as PSP was on the rise in India (later ending with a glorious fall!) and stakeholders such as Central Government, Urban Local Bodies and Private Sector needed a platform for discussions. For the preparation of the workshop, I made several sorties to Goa with Mr R S Gaitonde (a “Raja” personality, truly a Goan soul and then Vice President of IWWA). Our stay at the hotel Mandovi was always memorable. I loved having a drink with him in the large ball room in Mandovi hotel, with waltz dance going on Saturday evenings and watching the ships in the river Mandovi. We used to meet Mr. Pratapsingh Rane, Hon. Chief Minister of Goa in the morning to get “all the blessings” we needed for the event.

The PSP workshop was attended by great personalities in the water sector across the word and stalwarts in India. There were only 60 participants over 3 days on a residential basis and so discussions could happen. Later I brought out a special issue of JIWWA that contained all the key presentations. Mumbai Center of IWWA made a cool “profit” of 500,000 Rs.  So the event was a “success”

After I stepped down as the Hon Editor of JIWWA, I slowly drifted out of IWWA. I started attending the annual conventions only occasionally. The annual conventions are now in a new avatara. There are now large exhibitions (with all the noise and clutter), side visits (more as tours for the families) and the lunch/dinner galore. Technical sessions are crowded with no time to discuss.  I am not much inspired now-a-days to attend the IWWA Conventions. I see more strangers than friends at the sessions. But isnt that quite natural and not a surprise.

Many of us, old timers of IWWA, still meet and try to get together as regularly as possible. Most of the times, Park club near the sea beach in Shivaji Park is the place. We speak about the good old times of IWWA and drink beers.

In 2007, I gave the Modak Memorial Lecture that was instituted in the memory of my late Uncle N V (Nanasaheb) Modak. In 2016, I was asked to deliver this lecture once again for the second time at the 48th Annual Convention. This was indeed a rare honor to receive. I delivered my talk in the morning of January 21 at CIDCO auditorium in Navi Mumbai. That very evening I suffered a massive heart attack. I just survived and miraculously so as I was moved in time to the Hinduja Hospital. After the angioplasty was done and I was sent home, I spoke to my colleagues at the IWWA. I said in a lighter vein that, if I had not survived, then IWWA would have had two Memorial lectures from 2017 (one for the Late uncle and another for the Late nephew!).

Now that I have lost more than 10 kgs, and feeling really fit, I do hope to deliver Modak Memorial Lecture for the third time, may be in 2025!

Wish me luck! God bless.


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