Marathwada faces acute water scarcity, farm distress; farmers, local activists ask govt to declare drought

The Marathwada region of Maharashtra may face severe drought conditions in the coming months, due to a 37 percent deficit in the monsoon. Farmers have already lost a major portion of their kharif crops, and have no hopes from the rabi crops, due to the lack of water. People in the region are also facing a scarcity of drinking water.

This year, Marathwada received 63 percent rainfall. Thus, the water reservoirs in the region have only been filled to the extent of 26.4 percent, as per statistics from the water resources department procured on 11 October. In comparison, last year, water reservoirs were filled to the extent of 66.39 percent. Marathwada has 965 dams, including 45 major ones.

At the beginning of the kharif season, farmers sowed on time in June after a good spell of rain, and were expecting a good harvest. However, they later suffered heavy losses due to a dry spell from mid-July to August. Later, some good spells of rain again gave some hope to cultivators. However, after the last week of August, there was very little rainfall, which led to lower agricultural production. Although the monsoon has withdrawn from Maharashtra, the administration still hopes for some more rainfall.

According to the state revenue department, out of 8,533 villages in Marathwada’s eight districts, 2,958 villages have recorded agricultural production which is less than 50 percent of the expected amount. However, farmers say that the actual number of such villages is greater.

A farmer clearing the crop destroyed by the hailstorm at Borsar Village Taluka Vijapur in Marathwada. Representational image. Getty Images.

Representational image. Getty Images.

At the beginning of October, most of the water from dams and lakes in the region has already been reserved for drinking purposes. Authorities have imposed a ban on using water from these sources for agriculture. Local administrations are also removing water pumps from rivers, dams and lakes in an effort to save water till the next monsoon.

The district of Latur is facing a water scarcity, with the city getting drinking water only once a week. J Srikant, the collector of Latur, has already announced that all water reservoirs in the district are reserved for drinking purposes, and farmers will not be able to pump water for farming. He also announced that action would be taken against those who pump water for farming. The administration will also not allow pumping out of water from private wells that are near public water reservoirs.

Thus, farmers have few expectations from the rabi season. Many farmers have sowed sugarcane, but availability of water will be a problem.

Drinking water scarcity

Residents of Osmanabad city are also having to make do with water supply once in 15 days.

Babasaheb Manohare, CEO, Osmanabad, said, “Normally, the Ruibhar dam fulfils the water requirements of 30 percent of the city, but the dam is presently dry. As far as the Ujani dam is concerned, pumping water from it requires electricity, and there are frequent power cuts. Hence, we are not able to supply water regularly.”

Presently, at the close of the monsoon, over 178 villages depend on tankers for water, and 198 tankers supply water to these villages. According to officials, the situation will worsen during winter and subsequently, in summer.

Meanwhile, farmers and political parties are demanding that the government should declare the presence of a drought situation. However, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, during a visit to the region on 10 October, said a statement about the situation in the region will be made on 31 October. He also said that the central government will make a decision on declaring a drought situation based on the new rules and regulations framed by the present government.

Ajit Nawale of the Kisan Sabha, which is holding farmers’ meetings in Marathwada on the issue of droughts, said, “The new rules made in 2016, about the declaration of a drought situation, are complex. According to them, various factors like rain, water resources, drinking water, fodder, humidity in soil, employment and migration are to be taken into account. This is a complex and lengthy process. Due to this, the government may not declare a drought in a certain place, although there may be reason for doing so. People in such areas will then not be entitled to government help.”

Yogesh Pande from the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana said, “For most farmers, agricultural production has been less than 25 percent, although the state government has claimed that about half of the farmers have seen production of less than 50 percent. Fodder will be a major issue for animals. The government needs to accept that this is a drought, and start working on minimising the damage. If it does not do so, we will see people from Marathwada migrating towards cities or other places which have good water supply.”


Updated Date: Oct 13, 2018 19:42 PM

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