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Healthy storage levels in dams leave Maharashtra’s water tanker lobby worried

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on March 17, 2020 Published on March 17, 2020

Water, water everywhere The check-dam in Raigad. - RINA MUKHERJI

Dams in Maharashtra now have 57 per cent water storage, compared to 30 per cent this time last year. Only 15 tankers are plying the State, compared to 2,435 last year. In February 2019, over 6,500 villages and hamlets in Maharashtra were dependent on water tankers, against just 10 villages last month.

While this is good news for farmers and other citizens, who save on water tanker costs, the storage levels in dams have left the water tanker lobby.

Against just 6 per cent water storage in March 2019, the drought-prone Marathwada area now has 50 per cent storage in its 964 dams. Big dams in the region have 62 per cent water storage compared to 3 per cent last year. The Jayakwadi dam in Paithan, the lifeline of the Aurangabad region, was empty last year this time; today it has 73 per cent water storage.

The Nagpur and Amravati divisions in Vidarbha regions have 55 and 50 per cent water storage, respectively. Big dams in Amravati division have 58 per cent water compared to 27 per cent last year while Nagpur dams have 59 per cent ( 14 per cent last year).

Many parts of the State witnessed heavy downpours in October, damaging the kharif crop. But they helped boost the water levels in dams. This is expected to help the State’s irrigation and other requirements till monsoon.

The State’s tanker business, which has flourished over the past few decades, particularly in the drought-prone areas, has now come to a standstill. In Aurangabad city, private water tankers with a carrying capacity of 2,000 litres cost ₹500-700. In rural areas, 5,000 litres costs ₹2,000. The charge multiplies in remote villages.

“Water tankers is a flourishing business and the majority of water tanker owners have political affiliations; or politicians themselves have water tanker business. It is a multi-crore business with several stakes involved,” admitted a government official.

The tanker lobby is, however, hopeful that it will be able to achieve at least 50 per cent of the business target this year.

Published on March 17, 2020
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