There is some respite in store for the 1,500 villages battling acute water scarcity. The state government has now earmarked Rs920 crore for relief measures. The state’s water reserves have touched new lows in the absence of rainfall.
State revenue minister Eknath Khadse, who is also in-charge of the relief and rehabilitation department, said the government was gearing up to tackle the situation with this first step of allocating funds. Khadse said the Centre has allocated Rs550 crore towards drought relief, while the state government will pool in another Rs370 crore to carry out measures such as providing alternate sources of water, organising fodder camps for cattle fodder and compensating farmers.
The state, Khadse said, is also planning to use the railways to transport drinking water from Pandharpur to Latur, which is one of the worst-hit places.
“There will be no paucity of funds in tackling the scarcity. We have already spoken with the Centre and will be sending another proposal asking for more funds by the end of the year, depending on how bad the situation is,” Khadse said.
Khadse said the government was planning to undertake a massive project to ensure there was no dearth fodder in the state.
For this, he said, the government has started fodder plantation on various government lands as well as those owned by agricultural colleges, among others. “In addition, we are also encouraging farmers to grow fodder by giving them Rs1,500 a hectare and free seeds. We are confident these measures will help provide relief,” he said.
The government has already pressed more than 1,900 water tankers into service to cater to 1,501 villages across the state. In Marathwada, the region worst affected by the poor rainfall, there has been a persistent dry spell since the last week of June. Khadse said the cloud seeding experiments in the state were bearing mixed results. “However, we will persist with them till the end of the monsoon,” said Khadse.