Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has said his priority in the coming years will be to make the state "drought proof" by adopting decentralised and traditional water conservation methods. "Integrated water shed management on a massive scale like construction of cement dams, farm ponds, drip irrigation for sugarcane cultivation which saves 40 per cent of water and fodder management at taluka level are some of the initiatives that need to be taken," Chavan said.
Chavan expects Rs. 10,000 crore (over a period of time) from the Centre out of which Rs. 3,000 crore would be utilised for traditional water conservation methods. There has been an unprecedented mobilisation of funds for drought mitigation this year. About Rs. 900 crore were spent on Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA), he said.
Cement check dams were constructed in 15 talukas of drought-hit districts to the tune of Rs. 800 to Rs. 900 crore. "There were 9.80 lakh animals in 1,350 cattle camps. Over 5,000 water tankers were pressed into service," he said, adding focus should now be on constructing nullah bunds and percolation tanks.
"We have to do away with wasteful expenditure of setting up cattle camps and tankers for water supply," he said and added that 1,497 cement bunds are ready and will increase the storage capacity considerably.
Automatic water metres and incentivising water supply can be some of the measures to save water, Chavan said.
"Just like 24-hour electricity supply can be provided if bills are paid on time, the same can be applied for water supply as well. But this will be a major challenge and civic bodies will have to co-operate," he felt.
Similarly, sewage water can be treated and sold to industry through private entity or government controlled body on public private partnership mode.
The government will encourage voluntary public participation for the same, he said.
Apart from making the state drought proof, Chavan said his priorities were uniform industrial growth, meeting challenges of urbanisation in an integrated way, quality education and making rain-fed agriculture sustainable.