Beed diaries: Drought enters 38th week; acute water scarcity continues
With drought having entered its 38th week in Marathwada, rainfall deficiency in Beed, one of the worst-hit districts, stood at 37% on July 31 against 40% on July 24.
Beed has received just 140.38 mm of rainfall as of August 2 — lowest in the Marathwada region. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), the average annual rainfall of Beed amounts to 666 mm.
The poor rainfall has affected kharif sowing at the onset of monsoon, and farmers have started uprooting their crops to avoid further loss. The state agriculture department has issued an advisory for intercrop cultivation but farmers have been unwilling to do so.
Mahesh Patodkar, a farmer from Mainda village in Beed district, said, “It’s already too late and if we will continue with this crop we are likely to face major pest and diseases attack.”
Sakshi Kamble, a Class 5 student aged 11, has been helping her family by selling buckets of water at R5 each. She collects water from the dry riverbed in the Godavari at Paithan. Other children her age do the same.
Sakshi leaves home around 8am, and often skips school for this. Sakshi and her friends said they had sold 15-20 buckets on the auspicious occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi when people wanted to take a bath in the holy Godavari.
She does not like to return home empty-handed as her mother, who was abandoned by her father two years ago, is bed-ridden. Her family comprises her mother Sangeeta Kamble, 37, brother Suraj, 7, and sister Divya, 4.
Pilgrims visiting the Paithan ghat on the banks of the Godavari purchase a bucket of water for R5 for washing their face, hands and legs, and then proceed to pray at the temple of Sant Eknath Maharaj.
A pilgrim, Nivrutti Dondhphale 47, said he and others have no option but to purchase water from these children as the river has been dry since February.
A similar situation prevailed at other places along the Godavari ghat. A villager, Manisha Shende, said, “The TV shows there was a flood-like situation in Pune and Mumbai, but we still we have to travel almost 1-2 kilometre to fetch a handa of water.” The handa is a small kitchen utensil with 12 litres capacity.
The water conservation department of the state government said even two months after the onset of monsoon, water storage in Aurangabad division, which comprises Aurangabad, Beed, Hingoli, Parbhani and Osmanabad districts, was 3.39% as against 18.15% at the same time last year.
All the dams in the Marathawada region depend on the rivers that originate in the Godavari region. However, a lot of it is dotted by dams. Even after heavy downpours in Godavari’s catchment area in Nashik district, the stretch of the Godavari river in Beed, Parbhani and Nanded districts continues to run dry.
Hence the entire region continues to depend on water tankers. According to State Water Supply and Sanitation Department, the divisional commissionerate has deployed 2,011 water tankers to supply water to 1,501 villages and 348 hamlets. Of these, 699 water tankers have been deployed in Beed alone.