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Mercury rising: Centre fights drought with water train, borewell ban

india Updated: Apr 21, 2016 01:14 IST
HT Correspondent
Heat wave

Taking cognizance of the drought situation at Latur in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, the Railways has begun operating a 50-wagon train capable of transporting 25 lakh litres of water in a single trip. (Anshuman Poyrekar/ HT photo)

From sending in trains laden with water to preventing further depletion of groundwater, central and state authorities have adopted a slew of measures to aid drought-affected districts across the country.

The Railways have launched a 50-wagon train capable of transporting 25 lakh litres of water to Latur in Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region. The Jal Doot arrived in Latur from Miraj Junction on Wednesday morning.

The Maharashtra government banned digging of borewells below 200 feet in the region to safeguard its depleted water table. Officials said any violation of the rule was likely to invite stringent punishment – including fines and jail terms.

This decision came close on the heels of the state government’s April 17 decision to reduce water supply to industrial units, including breweries, in Aurangabad district.

Read: Maharashtra drought: Child goes to fetch water, dies of heat stroke

The ruling BJP government in the state witnessed internal rumblings as a party activist urged chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to stop the “VVIP helicopter tourism” of state and central ministers to drought-hit areas. In a letter to Fadnavis, BJP activist Dayanand Nene complained that over 10,000 litres of water was wasted to prepare a temporary helipad to receive helicopters of various state ministers when Bhiwandi – which was driving distance from Thane – had a regular helipad.

A Maharashtra irrigation official said dams across the state have only 19% water left, compared to 32% at this time last year. Eight of the Marathwada region’s 11 major dams are at the 3% level, which means that water from the reservoirs cannot flow out.

Many reasons – ranging from cultivation of the water-guzzling sugarcane crop to the indiscriminate digging of borewells – have been cited for worsening the drought situation in Marathwada, which has seen three deficient monsoons in a row.

A farmer sits on a dried-up bed of a water body on the outskirts of Hyderabad. (File photo/AP)

Down south, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah continued to counter charges over two tankers of water (about 5,000 litres) being emptied on roads to prevent dust from rising during a visit to drought-hit areas of Bagalkot district. When criticised by the state opposition, he promised to ask the deputy commissioner to look into it.

The Centre, meanwhile, faced a different kind of heat when the Supreme Court questioned its handling of the drought-like situation in the country. “It is the responsibility of the Centre to inform and warn that these states will receive less rainfall,” it said.

Both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have sought increased central assistance for relief from drought and drinking water scarcity.

Read: Water train brings 25 lakh litres of water to drought-affected Latur

Hyderabad is facing an unprecedented water shortage, with all the four reservoirs catering to the city drying up for the first time in 30 years. As it is now banking completely on the Krishna and Godavari rivers for its needs, the Hyderabad Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board has been able to supply only 335 million gallons of water per day against the demand for 660.

In an interview with PTI, Indian Space Research Organisation’s former chairman G Madhavan Nair said that the solution to the country’s water scarcity problem lay in conserving each raindrop and putting in place an efficient resource management system. He also suggested that check-dams be built on riverbeds to improve the groundwater level and prevent rainwater from flowing into the sea.

(With agency inputs)