As water woes hit Maharashtra, government considers ban on water-guzzling sugarcane

With several parts of the state being hit by drought conditions, the Maharashtra government may ban the sowing of the sugarcane crop in its effort to prioritize the usage of water, according to a DNA report.

 As water woes hit Maharashtra, government considers ban on water-guzzling sugarcane

Representational image. Image courtesy: Reuters

Sugarcane, one of the most important crops of Maharashtra, is a highly water-intensive one. According to an article in Mint, sugarcane cultivation accounts for 16 percent of the total cultivable land in the state but it consumes about 70 percent of the total water available through the irrigation system.

An Indian Express report quotes the state’s agriculture minister Eknath Khadse as saying that sugarcane cultivation and crushing ‘can wait for one more season’

According to the Indian Express report, Marathwada has 75 to 80 of a total of 205 sugar mills in the state. The report quotes a water management expert as saying that while at present, the rainfall received so far is suitable for crops that require water for eight months, sugarcane cultivation needs water for all 12 months of the year.

However, the agrarian economy around sugarcane has traditionally been important to politics in Maharashtra. An article in the Economic Times points out that for several decades, sugarcane cultivation has received ‘privileged treatment’ in Maharashtra as a large number of cane processing factories are owned or controlled by politicians.

The report adds that in the year 2012-13, also a year of drought in Marathwada, 20 sugar factories were set up in the region, even as villages had to be supplied drinking water through tankers.

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Updated Date: Sep 07, 2015 16:00:03 IST