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Left high & dry: Marathwada is heading for a drought situation again

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 29 August 2016, 15:23 IST

Marathwada has been in the news for long, and not for anything good. But after suffering back-to-back droughts for nearly four years, the fortune seems to be turning for this region of Maharashtra. And the credit goes to the people.

Droughts had become synonymous with Marathwada. Latur could be called the 'brand ambassador' of drought. The situation deteriorated to a point when drinking water had to be ferried by train from Sangli.

Also read: Ground report: Drought-stricken Marathwada limps from bad to worse

Alarmed by the gravity of the drought, the people of the region joined hands with the government to implement Jalayukta Shivar, a water conservation scheme. All rivers and water streams, however small, were widened and deepened during the summer. Though it was a government scheme, people supported and participated in it wholeheartedly.

The hard work of people bore fruit as the monsoons hit the region in June this year. After heavy to very heavy rainfall during June and July, all the rivers and water streams were full. Many of them had water flowing after four years.

Short-lived happiness

The outcome of the efforts was highly encouraging and people hoped that their miseries, that had stretched for over four years, would finally come to an end.

Elated by the 'satisfactory' rainfall, farmers in the region immediately took to farms and started sowing. The farmers had even started dreaming of the desired crop and earning out of it.

Also read: Warning notes from Marathwada: how water wars can consume India

But their dreams are likely to be shattered as the Marathwada region has not seen any rainfall for almost a month now.

The water levels in the reservoirs have gone dangerously down as well, leading to a situation similar to those seen in the previous years.

Dried out

"Latur has not seen any rains for last 25 days. The water storage in reservoirs has gone down drastically. The situation would be grave if it does not rain soon," said Prakash Phand, deputy engineer, Irrigation Department, Latur.

According to the Irrigation Department, as of 23 August 2016, total water storage in 44 small irrigation projects in Marathwada is 40.24%.

"Though it is much higher compared to just 2.94% recorded on the same day last year, it is not at all a good sign. The monsoon is not even over yet and the water storage has gone down to 40%. If the situation continued, the administration would be forced to get water from far off places like the previous year," said a senior Irrigation Department official who did not wish to be named.

Dwindling sources

Terna river in Osmanabad district had hit headlines this year after it got water for the first time in four years.

But within just two months the usable water levels in Lower Terna Dam has dipped to 0%.

The situation at Sina Kolegaon Dam is also grave with usable water levels at 2 million cubic metres and it's just 1 million cubic metres in Songiri Storage Barrage.

"With such low water storage, the situation is not at all promising," said the Irrigation Department official.

With water levels at almost all the minor and small irrigation projects dwindling rapidly, the situation is fast taking a serious turn. And the situation is same in most of the region. The majority of reservoirs in Marathwada have less than 20% water storage.

Solutions?

Suresh Khanapurkar, a pioneer of water revolution in rain shadow region of Dhulia district of Maharashtra, feels that the government lacks long-term planning in water conservation.

"What is happening in Marathwada is not at all unexpected. I had anticipated it ever since the Jalayukta Shivar project started in the region. All the work is being done by non-technical people who have no knowledge of geology, and the government does not want the expert opinion," says Khanapurkar.

In Shirpur taluka of Dhulia district, according to Khanapurkar, there has been less than 50% of the average rainfall till now. Still, there is no water shortage.

"We need to understand the changed rainfall pattern. One can not expect it to rain every day and every year during monsoon. It might rain one year and might not rain for next two years. We have to be prepared for any situation. In my opinion, perfect water conservation is when you don't face drought even if it does not rain for three consecutive years," Khanapurkar said.

The Leader of Opposition in the State Legislative Council, Dhananjay Munde, has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to try cloud seeding to bring relief to Marathwada.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also read: Disaster map: how the spreading drought has ravaged India

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First published: 29 August 2016, 15:23 IST
 
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