Alarmed by the drought situation, the government has decided to allocate irrigation water only for drinking purposes in several parts of the state.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday said that water scarcity was acute in 14 districts in central, western and northern Maharashtra, so water would be supplied only for drinking in these regions. The state is currently providing tanker water to 966 villages in these districts.
The Cabinet, which reviewed the drought situation at a weekly meeting on Wednesday, approved a proposal to make Rs 2 crore available to every drought-hit district for emergency measures.
Chavan said the state has asked the Centre for a grant of Rs 2,200 crore to deal with the situation. So far, the state has made Rs 414 core available for water supply, but it needs more money to put in place temporary and permanent measures, the chief minister said.
“We want to transport water and [animal] fodder to these areas. We are thinking of transporting water using the railways; I have discussed the proposal with senior railways officials,” Chavan said.
The chief minister said sugarcane farms in areas where there is water surplus would continue to get irrigated rationally. “Anyway you can’t take this surplus water to scarcity areas,” he said, adding that industries such as sugar factories too would continue to get water as they don’t use too much water.
However, Chavan did not specify which other industries would get water.
As per official data, central Maharashtra (Marathwada) has just 17% water storage in its dams, of which the Jaikwadi project near Aurangabad has 0% usable stock.
The Nashik division has 40% stock, Pune (which covers most of western Maharashtra) 52%, Nagpur and Amravati 54% each; Konkan has the highest water stock of 76%.
Agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has demanded that the state stop supply to water-intensive industries located in drought-hit regions.