Life comes to a halt in drought-hit Maharashtra’s Beed
Tens of thousands of Beed residents have no choice but to struggle hard to source the basic necessity – water – as the local municipal corporation has been able to provide it just once in 15 to 20 days.Updated: May 31, 2019 09:35 IST
On a late May forenoon, Sunita Wadmare, (AGE), a middle-class homemaker, began what has become a daily routine for people in swathes of Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region.
She left her home in Beed at 11:00 am looking for water as the sun beat down hard and the mercury hovered around 40 degree Celsius.
Tens of thousands of Beed residents have no choice but to struggle hard to source the basic necessity – water – as the local municipal corporation has been able to provide it just once in 15 to 20 days.
“It is difficult to survive with the quantity of water the civic body supplies. It is inadequate and hence many times we have to skip our daily bath and washing of clothes. The washing of clothes is dependent on the availability of water,” said Wadmare as she looked for water in Beed, where two sunstroke deaths had been reported a week earlier as the mercury crossed 45 degree Celsius.
Almost every house in Beed has large tanks to store water. The Wadmares have four each with a 300-litre capacity. Wadmare said the fully-stored water lasts for 10 days. It becomes difficult to manage if fresh water is not supplied. The situation is so bad that many residents even avoid using toilets.
Usha Jadhav, a resident of Beed’s Shivajinagar area, said they cannot afford to waste 5-10 litres of water for flushing. “We have to purchase water,” she said.
Jadhav, who said women often wait until sunset to defecate in the open, had got a toilet constructed in December under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but her family does not use it anymore. Many residents, who can afford to buy water, are entirely dependent upon private suppliers, who charge Rs 250-300 for 1,000 litres of water.
In the 1997 EAS Sarma Committee Report (ON WHAT), Beed figured on the list of the country’s top 100 rapidly-growing backward districts. But it has been a downslide since as Beed continues to face serious issues like consistent drought. It is among Maharashtra’s worst drought-affected regions.
Beed faced 50% rainfall deficit in 2018, according to the India Meteorological Department. The district gets an annual average rainfall of 666.36 mm. It received around 334.70 mm rainfall during the 2018 monsoon.
The shortage of rain has had Beed’s two main sources of water -- Bindusara Dam and the Majalgaon Irrigation Project -- dry or drying.
That about 80% of Beed’s 22 lakh people live in villages and have rainfall-dependent agriculture as their main source of livelihood has made matters worse.
Officials said the Beed city alone needs 28 million litres daily (MLD). But authorities are able to provide just 19-20 MLD of water. Officials acknowledged the city is now dependent on private water suppliers.
Beed Municipal Corporation’s water department chief engineer, Rahul Talke, insisted they provide water tankers if the regular supply system fails. “We have also started providing water tankers as per demand.”
Talke said the civic administration has been asked to tap newer water sources in the city and has ordered acquisition of the existing borewells and wells to meet the water needs.
Officials cited the 50% rainfall deficit and said the water sources in the district have failed to recharge and have virtually dried up due to a rise in temperatures. They added many borewells in the city have water at a depth of 300-500 feet and are almost dry.
Residents have to pump for around half-an-hour to get 10-12 litres of water from hand pumps. They complain the private water tankers have been delivering highly polluted water, which is not fit for drinking.
According to the Ground Water Survey and Development Agency, all the 11 talukas in Beed district showed groundwater depletion by March-end. Across 943 villages, the groundwater depletion was more than one metre.
The water scarcity has also led to increased consumption of untreated water and caused diseases.
“Over the last one-and-half months, there has been a 50% rise in the number of patients suffering from diarrhoea, gastritis etc...,” said Dr Sandeep Deshmukh, a general physician at the Beed Civil Hospital.
He blamed contaminated water supply for the rise in water-borne diseases. “Hence, we have appealed to the people to boil drinking water,” Dr Deshmukh said.
He said people are also not drinking enough water because of drought and it is resulting in dehydration.
Beed District collector Astik Kumar Pandey has written to his Ahmednagar counterpart seeking permission for water-filling points in his district to make up for the scarcity.
First Published: May 31, 2019 08:03 IST