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Relief for Marathawada: How Terna flowed after 4 years

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST
Drought disaster
  • Maharashtra has been facing acute drought situations for four years
  • Latur district in Marathawada was the worst hit this year
What happened in Latur
  • Section 144 was imposed in Latur to avoid law and order situation in the districts
  • Desperate residents were attacking water tankers, politicians were diverting them to their own areas
More in the story
  • How did a professor and a handful of his friends find a solution
  • What does the reflowing of Terna River mean for the area

Maharashtra has been facing acute drought for over four years. While many of the parts of the state have enough water to sustain till the onset of monsoon, there are some parts which do not have even a single drop to drink.

Latur district in Marathawada region of Maharashtra is one of them. Latur city and district made headlines this year but for wrong reasons.

Couple of months back when almost all the water resources in the district had dried up, the civic administration had to impose Section 144 to prevent law and order situations during water distribution.

On the brink

Latur was the first city in the country to impose Section 144 around water tanks and reservoirs as people in the district had literally become desperate enough to attack them. Many political leaders were also diverting water tankers to their areas creating more problems.

Also read: Water supply once a month: lessons to be learnt from Latur

This led to law and order situation in the city and district and as a result, civic administration imposed Section 144, prohibiting assembly of more than 10 persons at a place.

Alarmed by the critical situation in Latur state government decided to supply drinking water to the city by train. In the given scenario, Latur city and district had become kind of brand ambassador of drought in Maharashtra.

The situation was growing worse and there was no solution in sight. Human beings and animals were dying of thirst. The state government was frantically trying to bring all possible relief to the distressed people.

Vikas Kulkarni

Schemes to the rescue

Then came the flagship scheme of the state Jalayukta Shivar (Farms with water). The scheme envisaged deepening and widening of water streams to allow water percolation into aquifers.

Jalayukta Shivar was launched with much fanfare and received an overwhelming support from the people across the state.

Millions of people came forward for the cause and even contributed financially as well as with man power.

Story of Terna

Like every other village in Marathwada, Aurad Shahajani village in Nilanga taluka of the district too faced the same acute water scarcity.

The village saw many people migrating to cities like Pune and Mumbai for survival, cattle being either sold or left to the mercy of god.

The village is ideally located with Terna River flowing on three sides. Once a perennial one, Terna completely dried up four years ago. There was not a single drop of water in the entire 70 odd km stretch of the river.

Terna river in Aurad Shahajani district dried up completely four years ago due to lack of rains

Worried by the fate of the village, Vikas Kulkarni a professor at Mangeshkar College, Aurad decided to do whatever he could, to turn around the situation.

"After the death of my father, I start some or the other social work on his every death anniversary. Similarly, my friends and I decided to kick-start water conservation projects on 8 October this year. We started public education and awareness drives in the villages in the vicinity. Our objective was to participate in the Jalayukta Shivar scheme and undertake water and soil conservation projects to revive Terna River. I strongly feel that, if revived, Terna can be a lifeline for people living in our village as well as those in the vicinity," Kulkarni said.

Vikas Kulkarni

The course taken

Terna river originates near village Ter in Osmanabad district, hence the name. The five km stretch of the river circles the village of Aruad Shahajani.

Till four years back, it was a source of drinking as well as irrigation water for the people. But due to drastically low rainfall over the last five years, the river dried up completely.

Also read: Pankaja Munde defends Latur selfie; says she 'clicked it in 45 C simmering heat'

"Initially, we tried to generate funding for the revival of Terna River. However, we didn't get much financial support from the people who were already in deep trouble due to the drought. But they readily offered to work on the project. With the help of the people, the widening, deepening and de-silting work began at four villages around Aurad Shahajani," Kulkarni said.

He said, his friends such as Mahadev Gomare, Makrand Jadhav and Tryambakdas Zanvar who are volunteers of Art Of Living and Vishwanath Olande, a veteran teacher from the village helped in getting the financial assistance for the project.

Vikas Kulkarni and friends are working on widening the Terna river to fix Latur's drought issue

With the help of these friends and other villagers, the work started on 19 February 2016 and completed widening, deepening and de-silting of 3.5 km on 31 May 2016.

"Initially we were struggling for generating funds for the project. The requirement was around Rs 1 Cr for the five km stretch. We started spreading the word on social media, where we got a huge response. Apart from getting help from far off places such as Nagpur, Karjat near Mumbai, Panjab, we got a donation of Rs 3 lakh from one Hitendra Singh from Dubai. He curtailed the expenditure on his marriage and saved the money to be donated for the project," Kulkarni said.

Singh is friend of Prashant Girbane, a native of village Aurad Shahajani. Girbane currently works at Pune. He had posted an appeal for donations for the project on his Facebook page.

Responding to the appeal, Singh decided to save money and donate. "Singh was my batch mate in IIM, Ahmedabad. He got married on 9 May at Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Singh called me and informed that he has decided to curtail unnecessary expenditure on marriage and save Rs 10 lakh to be donated to various projects. He decided to donate Rs 3 lakh to Terna River Revival project," Girbane said.

Vikas Kulkarni

Relief at last

With the untiring hard work of hundreds of villagers, Terna River had water for the first time in last four years after pre-monsoon rains lashed the area three days ago.

"It gives me immense satisfaction to see water in the river after so many years. The pre-monsoon rains have given a ray of hope. If the monsoon is satisfactory, the river will have water for almost all the year and farmers in the village could cultivate their lands after four years," says a satisfied Kulkarni.

Also read: #DroughtWatch: Is Hyderabad going the Latur way?
First published: 13 June 2016, 6:27 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.