Crop loss fear drives Marathwada farmers to suicide, South India remains parched: Reservoir levels reflect grim reality

While water levels in major reservoirs in Maharashtra have increased to 59 percent of their total capacity in recent days, the drought situation in the country continues to remain grim. In last eight days, 34 farmers have committed suicide in Marathwada region of Maharashtra because they fear crop losses due to dry spell. A farmer told Livemint that there have been no rains in Marathwada for a month and farmers can no longer resow. They have also lost a season's earnings to this dry spell.

Nothing seems to have changed in states of South India as well. The struggle for even dirty water is making youths in Tamil Nadu and Telangana risk losing a limb or even death. Some of the youths use ropes to get into deep gorges because in South India this is the only source of water. Cauvery has dried and many dams are also without water. This dismal reality is reflected in the level of water in major reservoirs across India.

Central India reported a rise in violent clashes over water last year, however, the situation seems to have improved significantly in 2017.

While Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the brink of a drought for the second straight year, water level in 91 major reservoirs of the country has dipped to 27 percent of their total storage capacity. According to PTI, the level reported in April this year was 129 percent of the storage reported during the corresponding period last year.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have recorded less storage as compared to last year while Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh have a better stock, according to the Union water resources ministry.

The water in reservoirs is not just used for irrigation and hydropower generation but also for drinking purposes. The 91 big reservoirs - 31 of which are in South India - have a total capacity of about 158 billion cubic metres. This is over 60 percent of the total capacity in all the reservoirs in the country put together, according to The Indian Express. About 80 of these 91 reservoirs are filled only up to 40 percent of their capacity.

The state of Maharashtra faced one of the worst droughts last year, however, the situation has steadily improved this year. "In many parts of the state, including Sangali and Kolhapur districts, dam storage level is more than 35 percent. Water from these dams can be used for agriculture purposes too. The situation is improving every day," Patangrao Kadam, Maharashtra’s forest minister, was quoted as saying by DNA.

In 2016, the Maharashtra government had declared drought in 29,000 villages. The state had 78 percent drought-affected districts last year and was allotted the largest sum of relief funds. Jayakwadi dam in Aurangabad district in Marathwada had only one percent water. According to a Central Water Commission report, the water level has dipped to zero percent.

In 2017, Maharashtra was among the wettest places in the country. The highest quantum of rain this year has been recorded at spots such as Karjat, Pen, Matheran, Igatpuri, Bhira, Mahabaleshwar and Nashik among others, The Times of India reported.

Central India

In states like Madhya Pradesh, rainfall was 30-35 percent below normal. Rainfall was almost 85 percent below normal during the week ended 16 August.

The total live storage available in Central states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, is 44 percent of the total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Storage during the corresponding period of last year was 50 percent and average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period was 35 percent of the live storage capacity of these reservoirs.

South India

Despite India experiencing normal monsoon this year, the southern region covering the old Mysore region and coastal Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have seemingly come closer to a drought-like situation. Despite India recording an average area-weighted rainfall of 343.4 mm during the current monsoon season, rain has been below normal in south India.

While Kerala and Tamil Nadu are facing an unprecedented drought, Karnataka's northern districts are also without water for the third consecutive year.

The result of this less than average rainfall is reflected in water levels of dams. The Indian Express noted that the four reservoirs of the Cauvery basin in Karnataka – Krishna Raja Sagara, Hemavathy, Kabini and Harangi – have less water than they had at this time last year.

For the entire Southern region, the water level is down to 20 percent of the storage capacity for the 31 reservoirs. The storage during the corresponding period of last year was 18 percent... storage during the current year is less than the corresponding period of last year, " the official statement from CWC said.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Aug 17, 2017 15:41 PM

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