The water crisis in Maharashtra is assuming serious proportions, with many villagers in Beed and Jalna forced to fetch water from ponds and wells located almost 20 km away from their homes.
Across the State, there are 2,475 irrigation dams and reservoirs, whose installed capacity has been pegged at 37,480 million cubic metres. However, as of February 27, these dams held around 13,830 million cubic meters of water, which translates to just 37 per cent of the total installed capacity.
Last year, in the same month, it was 42 per cent of installed capacity. This shows that this year water levels at the reservoirs have depleted by around 5 percentage points .
Incidentally, in 2011, water levels at these dams were pegged at 57 per cent. Data from the Water Resources Department of the Maharashtra Government show that in 2012, the State recorded a 15 per cent drop in water levels.
This year, it is only the beginning of summer, but villagers in drought prone areas have already started their frantic search for water. Data show that currently, over 2,136 tankers are supplying water to 1,663 villages and 4,490 hamlets across the State.
Last year, only 230 tankers were pushed into operation to supply water to 212 villages and 1,203 hamlets.
Playing down the water crisis, a State Government official told Business Line that though there was scarcity of water, food and fodder were well-stocked across the State. He pointed out that the Marathwada region was the worst affected in Maharashtra, having just 12 per cent of the total regional capacity of 7,593 million cubic meters.
Marathwada, once a part of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s empire, comprises Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad, and Hingoli districts. The total water availability in these eight districts is currently at 905 million cubic meters. Last year, dams and other water bodies in the region held 30 per cent of the capacity, the official said.
In the case of Latur, the official pointed out that the situation was so dire that farmers had started digging borewells to ensure water for their crops. On an average, about 150 such wells are dug daily, he added.
A geologist from Pune, Suvrat Kher, told Business Line that the frantic race to tap water in these areas with the use of heavy machinery would actually deplete the ground water levels even further.
“The basalt rock of the region will prevent faster replenishing of the ground water table during the monsoon,” he added.