Latur’s worst water crisis ever, accentuated by the dry, 40 degrees centigrade heat, hasn’t quite dampened the spirits of its people.

A few of the city’s influential citizens are crowd-funding an initiative to deepen and widen a stretch of the nearby Manjara river, and possibly find a long-term solution to their water woes.

The movement, named Jalyukt Latur (water-prosperous Latur), was initiated on April 8, and has already raised ₹3 crore of the estimated project cost of ₹7.5 crore. “We have formed WhatsApp groups, reached out to educational institutes, including schools, and all the local merchant associations to crowd-source funds,” says Makrand Jadhav, one of the co-ordinators of the initiative and a member of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living.

Jadhav and local industrialist Nilesh Thakkar have formed WhatsApp groups connecting batch-mates from their schools to raise funds. Another industrialist, BB Thombre, who owns a sugar producing company, has raised ₹5 lakh till now through the social networking app.

“Just yesterday, a school student gave me his piggy bank,” says Thakkar. Apart from the WhatsApp group initiative, the industrialist has requested employees at his Maharashtra Bio Fertilisers to forego a day’s salary to contribute for the river-widening project. “So far, they have pledged ₹2.5 lakh, and I have matched the amount,” he adds.

The project, which is under way, will deepen the Manjara river by three meters and widen it by 80 meters in a 18-km stretch between the Nagziri and Sai barrages. “Once completed, there will be enough water to cater to Latur’s water requirement of 20 million litres per day,” says Jadhav.

Much cheaper option

Amit Deshmukh, the local MLA, conducted a review of the project at the site on Friday. “It is a good project. The best thing is that this costs only a fifth of what a similar project proposed by the government would have cost,” he told BusinessLine .

It helps that the citizens-initiated project has secured the earth-moving wheel loaders at a discount. Against the normal rate of ₹2,000 per hour, the owners are renting the machines at ₹1,450/hour.

“Our target is to complete the work by May 31, before the onset of the monsoon,” says Jogendra Singh Bisen, a member of Janyukt Latur and principal of a local college.

Associations of various kinds have come forward to make the project a success. While the association of coaching-school owners (the city is a coaching hub) has promised ₹20 lakh, Latur’s chartered accountants have pledged ₹25 lakh.

“We want to make sure that such a situation never arises again,” says Sunil Deshpande, a local businessman.

Three consecutive years of deficit monsoon have aggravated the long-standing water problem in this city in Marathwada district. While for three years the local administration has been rationing tap water, the pipes went completely dry from February. The local needs are met by over 1,000 water tankers that get the life-sustaining resource from far-flung villages.

“This is the worst we have seen,” says Shubhada Reddy, an advocate and member of the Gyaneshwari Yelam Mahila Mandal, a women organisation. The Mandal, which has 30 members, has given ₹50,000 to the Jalyukt Latur initiative.

And with the crowd-funded project to widen the river, the residents hope, things will only get better from here.

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