Maharashtra drought situation turns grim

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018


A crisis unfolds as only 5% water reserves left in Marathwada

The water crisis is turning grim in Maharashtra, which has seen successive monsoon failures. The State has only 23 per cent water left in its 2,500-plus reservoirs.

In Latur in the Marathwada region, the district collector has imposed prohibitory orders in areas where water is supplied by tankers. About 814 dams and reservoirs in the region only have five per cent water left.

Marathwada worst-hit

Noted water conservationist Rajendra Singh, who has been touring the affected districts of Marathwada, told BusinessLine that the situation is grim, with no respite in sight.

“If a government can have its own reserve police, why can’t it have reserve water supply? The drinking water crisis has been triggered by overexploitation of groundwater,” Singh said.

Singh, a recipient of the Magsaysay Award, pointed out that cane crops continue to be watered from groundwater sources in Marathwada. In some areas, borewell water is being drawn from as deep as 1,000 metres below ground, which must be stopped immediately.

“Until independence, traditional Indian societies had water reserves, which could last even if there was drought for five years. But in Maharashtra, the water doesn’t last even for two years,” Singh said.

‘Govt failure’

Political commentator Nagesh Kesari said the State government has failed in tackling the drought situation. It was so focussed on ‘Make in India’ programmes that it completely overlooked the emerging water crisis. The recently introduced State Budget should have made a special provision for drought relief, he said.

Kesari suggested that in view of the suffering of the people of Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, the government should arrange to bring water from neighbouring Karnataka and Telangana. Rail tankers should have been pressed into service a long back, he added.

While Marathwada has only five per cent water supply, Amravati region of Vidarbha is slightly better with 21 per cent. Only the coastal Konkan region has 52 per cent water reserves, but it cannot be transported to other regions because of the Sahyadri mountain range.

Crop loss

Agricultural consultant to the Asian Development Bank Jagadish Sunkad observed that banana crop in the State would be affected by the water stress. Crops such as red gram (Arhar), which is a major crop in the State, would be affected if the monsoon does not arrive on time in June.

The last three years’ statistics show that the monsoon season has been arriving late in Maharashtra. But the farmers in the State continue to sow seeds that are not drought resistant. If the monsoon is delayed again, the vicious cycle of drought and crop failure will continue, Sunkad said.

Maharashtra’s Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan was not available for comment.

Published on April 01, 2016

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