The unprecedented water crisis and drought has forced the Maharashtra government to change the traditional irrigation network it has been following for decades. It has decided to adopt a closed-pipe distribution system for all new projects. This means water from dams in the state will not be distributed through open canals any more. This will help the state save a large quantity of water as well as money — the cost of laying underground metal or cement concrete pipelines would be less compared to the cost of acquiring land and then building cement concrete canals. The decision was taken in a state cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Maharashtra will also start conducting water audits every year. For this, the state government will soon have a water audit directorate on the lines of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). The objective is to ascertain total wastage of water, the reason and solutions for it.
Maharashtra is facing a severe water crisis with more than 5,000 tankers deployed to supply potable to the people. The water storage of dams in drought-hit Marathwada (central Maharashtra) has come down to an all-time low of 2%.
The move will also help prevent water theft, leakages and evaporation, state water resources minister Girish Mahajan said on Tuesday.
“To supply 2 TMC (thousand million cubic) water for Solapur, officials have to release 20 TMC of water, which means 18 TMC goes waste. This is all because of water theft, leakages and evaporation. But with the new system in place, the situation will change completely,” Mahajan said.
Explaining details of the system, the state water resources minister said it will be an underground system, which will not affect farmers and will also help the government save money. The state government spends five times more than the market rate as compensation for land acquisition, which puts a lot of pressure on the state exchequer.
“With a closed pipe system, the state will not need to acquire land and prepare canals. Thus, all the new irrigation projects in the state will now have a closed pipe distribution system. Also, it will be made applicable for irrigation projects for which land has not be acquired as yet,” he said.
According to sources in the government, Maharashtra will soon have a water audit and an irrigation audit directorate with seven regional heads. The directorate will appoint auditors for a water audit at the district level and compile annual report with its recommendations for rectifications and future planning to save wastage of water.