With the monsoon still more than a month away, the drought situation in 3,664 most-affected villages in the state is likely to go from bad to worse. The saving grace is forecast of good rainfall this year and substantial funds being spent by the state on relief measures to ensure rural economies do not tank completely.
The review of the drought situation in the state by the cabinet on Wednesday revealed that water availability in major dams has dipped to 20%, with the Marathwada region having the lowest storage of just 6%.
In nearly seven dams in Marathwada, including Jayakwadi, the biggest dam in the region, the live storage of water is 0%. Currently, 4,546 tankers have been pressed into service to supply water to 3,664 villages and 9,095-odd hamlets every day. Last year, only 1,620 tankers were required. The state government has also set up 1,159 cattle camps across nine districts, which shelter over 8.39 lakh animals. So far, the state government has spent nearly Rs1,509 crore on running cattle camps and providing fodder to farm animals.
It has also spent Rs500 crore on drinking water measures, and an additional Rs200 crore has been allotted for the purpose. The Centre has handed out nearly Rs2,400 crore as drought package for Maharashtra.
The role of cattle camps is important as it will help farmers protect and sustain their dairy business during the failure of rabi crops. There are around 3.31 lakh farmers on the rolls of Employment Guarantee Scheme in the affected regions.
“The government is rationing water for agriculture, and hence there will be enough for drinking purposes for all affected villages. Our challenge is the logistics — to ensure enough tankers are provided and reach affected areas,” said Milind Mhaiskar, secretary of relief and rehabilitation. He added that in Marathwada, the existing water stock could last for up to three to four months.