This year’s deficit monsoon has created a difficult situation for the state government over the supply of water.
There’s unrest brewing in north Maharashtra, where farmers are opposed to the government’s decision to release water from dams in the region to central Maharashtra (Marathwada), which is reeling under water shortage. The row has now taken a political turn, with a Congress minister threatening to quit if more water is released from reservoirs in his district.
At the same time, the state is facing immense public pressure from Marathwada, where the huge Jayakwadi reservoir does not have enough water to cater to Aurangabad and other neighbouring areas. Last month, 2.5 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) water was released from Bhandardara dam in Ahmednagar to Jaywakwadi, but less than half the quantity reached the reservoir because of distance and evaporation.
Politicians and non-governmental groups in Marathwada are demanding that the state release more water from upstream dams. Technologically speaking, Marathwada dams can get water only from upstream reservoirs in Nashik and Ahmednagar.
An NGO, Marathwada Janata Vikas Parishad, has petitioned Bombay high court demanding 27 TMC water for Jayakwadi, on the basis of the statutory provision for equitable distribution of water. The court has asked the state for a report by December 3.
Pradeep Deshmukh, who represents the NGO in court, said the state has a water regulatory authority, but it has not put down rules under which water could be distributed equally. “The authority has not used its power since it came into existence six years ago. Our demand is justified,” he said.
As on Monday, official figures peg Marathwada’s average water storage at 20%, the lowest in the state.
At a public meeting on Sunday, agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who hails from Ahmednagar district, told his constituency that he prefers to protect farmers’ interests rather than his Cabinet berth. “We need to manage the Jayakwadi storage more efficiently so it does not face water shortage frequently and upstream dams don’t need to release water,” he said.
Nashik too is against giving water. “The reservoirs that have more water should cater to needy regions,” said Sameer Bhujbal, NCP MP from Nashik, adding that dams in his district don’t have enough storage, and local people wanted their share.
V Giriraj, principal secretary, water resources department, said the state would take a call after the court case is decided in December.