Things are getting worse for drought-affected areas of Maharashtra this summer. As the state officials involved in relief and rehabilitation work reviewed the situation, it has become clear that 3,351 villages in the state have no sources of drinking water available and tankers are their only respite. What is alarming is that the number of such villages was 2,100 on March 19. This has increased rapidly by 1,251 villages in a month. The number of tankers deployed to supply water to these areas has almost doubled in just one month. In the Marathwada region, which is the worst-hit, 674 additional villages turned completely dry in the same period, taking the total number to 2,306.
According to the data compiled by the relief and rehabilitation department, the number of tankers supplying drinking water reached 4,356, as against 2,279 on March 19. Almost half of them (2,908) are being sent to 2,306 villages in Marathwada, the worst-hit, as against 2,279 tankers to 1,632 villages on March 19.
The water stock in the Marathwada dams has also gone down to 3%. Of the 11 major dams in the region, seven — including the largest Jayakwadi — have zero live water storage. Officials involved in relief work fear the situation is going to get worse as the summer advances.
“Most of the sources of water in the region have dried up. Also, owing to soaring temperature, water is evaporating faster. We may need more tankers to provide drinking water to people in the coming days,” said Umakant Dangat, divisional commissioner of Aurangabad.
Overall in the state, the government has to supply drinking water through tankers in 27 of the 34 districts.
The total number of tankers deployed last year in the state by this time was just one-third the current figure. Last year, as of April 20, 2015, 1,516 tankers were deployed.
In Marathwada, Beed district requires the most number of tankers (798), followed by Aurangabad, which has to make do with 675 tankers.
Aurangabad district collector Nidhi Pande has already imposed 10% water cut for all the industries in the district, while for water-based industries — distilleries, breweries and beverages — the water cut is 20%.
“We are in a situation where we have no choice left because it is the duty of the government to supply potable water to the people at any cost. The state government is doing the same,” said a senior official, on condition of anonymity. He further admitted the number of tankers will increase in the coming days because water levels are depleting fast with soaring temperatures.
The officer was referring to the water stock, which is currently just 19% in dams across the state. As on April 15 last year, the water stock in Marathwada was 11%, while in 2014 it was 30%. Similarly, the overall stock of water in the state was much better last year with 32% stock and 38% in 2014.
Meanwhile, of the 34 districts of the state, only seven — Sindhudurg (Konkan division), Nandurbar (Nashik division), Pune (Pune division), Wardha, Gondhia, Bhandara and Gadchiroli district (Nagpur division) are not being supplied water primarily through tankers.
From Tuesday onwards, Latur is expected to start getting 25 lakh litres of water through railway wagons, instead of 15 lakh litres.