Maharashtra: 32 districts face drought, government lists 179 tehsils for verification
Thirty-two of the state’s 36 districts are staring at drought this year, a report by government’s forecasting agency, National Centre for Crop Forecasting (NCCF), has found.
The state’s relief and rehabilitation department will now study the conditions on the ground at 179 tehsils in these 32 districts , before officially declaring them as drought-hit.
The state had earlier said 201 tehsils that got less than 75% of the average annual rainfall they need were at risk of drought.
Based on the NCCF report, which was compiled with data about the areas where crops are sown, the groundwater table index and the amount of water in the reservoirs, the state has now narrowed down on the 179 tehsils. Officials will conduct ground truthing, or manual verifications of the conditions on the ground in these tehsils — a mandatory step before drought is declared.
Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain directed all divisional commissioners to begin ground truthing, in a meeting held on October 11. The ground truthing report is likely to be submitted by the end of this week. The last time the state was faced with drought, in 2016, the affected districts were mainly in the Marathawada and Vidarbha regions.
This time, the 36 districts hit by deficient rainfall are spread out across the state, in Vidarbha, Marathwada, north and west Maharashtra and the Konkan region.
They include Aurangabad, Beed, Hingoli, Jalna, Nanded, Latur, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Ahmednagar, Dhule, Jalgaon ,Nashik, Nandurbar, Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Yavatmal, Washim,Wardha, Gondia, Chandrapur, Nagpur, Bhandara from Vidarbha, Kolhapur, Pune, Sangli, Satara, Solapur, Raigad, Palghar, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
According to the Centre’s manual for drought management, the state can declare drought only based on the NCCF report and ground truthing.
Under the ground truthing method, 10% of the total affected villages are randomly selected from the 179 tehsils, where officers from the district collectorate and state agriculture department will verify the ground situation with remote sensing data, an official said, requesting anonymity.
Once the report is submitted, drought will be declared after a government resolution is issued, the official added.
After drought is declared, the farmers affected will get relief from the state government including exemption in land revenue, restructuring of farm loans, stay on recovery of farm loan, 33.5% concession in the electricity bills of agriculture pumps, stop disconnecting electricity supply of agriculture pumps over non-payment, exam fees of the students in school and colleges will be waived, norms of employment guarantee scheme will be relaxed so that more farmers can be accommodated and starting supply of water through tankers in the areas facing scarcity.
Water sources in Marathwada and north Maharashtra have already started drying up, and the state has deployed 380 water tankers to supply water. Of them, more than 200 tankers are deployed in Marathwada, and around 150 tankers in the north Maharashtra region, figures from the state water supply and sanitation department said. We may have to deploy more tankers soon, a senior official from state water supply and sanitation department said.