90% drought in Marathwada, 100% apathy, claim villagers
The authorities maintain they have taken steps. But, villagers are seen standing in queues for hours to collect water from tankers, scraping what’s left in their drying wells or doing the rounds of government offices demanding drought-relief.Updated: Apr 02, 2019 08:40 IST
Sakhubai Ghule, 55, a resident of Jalna’s Nandi village, makes her way to the common well before sunrise every day. It is her only hope of getting a bucket of muddy water from the nearly dry well. She gets half a bucket. “This is the only source of water in our village. All other wells have dried up,” she said. As summer sets in, drought conditions and acute water scarcity in central Maharashtra’s Marathwada region are getting worse. Drought is not new to the region, which has seen three droughts in four years.
The authorities maintain they have taken steps. “We have taken every possible measure to supply water and build cattle camps. Local administrations have been asked to tap newer water sources,” said Vijaykumar Phad, deputy commissioner (revenue), divisional commissionerate, Aurangabad. But, villagers are seen standing in queues for hours to collect water from tankers, scraping what’s left in their drying wells or doing the rounds of government offices demanding drought-relief.
While the Maharashtra government started declaring drought in November 2018, almost five months later, villagers said relief measures are yet to reach them. Drought was declared in 20,000 villages across 26 districts. Eight districts of Marathwada are among the worst hit. Here, more than 90% of the villages — 7,765 of 8,534 villages — have been hit. In five districts, every village is reeling under drought, according to government figures. As part of relief measures, the government promised water tankers and setting up cattle camps. But, residents allege tankers don’t arrive, as revenue officials have marked many dry wells as live water sources. “How can authorities call a well with muddy water that is only half a foot deep a live source?” said Aslam Patel, Marathwada resident who helped set up a cattle camp in 2012. No camps have been set up in Jalna; there are a few in the region. “It’s either our children or our cattle,” said Suresh Jadhav, sarpanch of Jalna’s Bondhalapuri village. “Butchers are ready to buy buffaloes at a fourth of the market price.” The water scarcity is not restricted to the region’s villages. Even in Aurangabad, Marathwada’s key city, residents get tap water once every four days.
Back in Jalna’s Nandi village, Sakhubai Ghule said residents are still waiting for the government to start supplying water through tankers.
“Young girls walk 2-3km with handas (aluminium pots) to collect water from farm wells,” she said.