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Water crisis worsens in Maharashtra, 800 more villages need tankers

In just one week, 800 more villages and hamlets have been added to a list of areas depending on tankers for their daily water needs, as the stock in Maharashtra’s dams fell to 14.85%

mumbai Updated: May 18, 2019 00:40 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Water crisis,Marathwada
(Picture for representation)

In just one week, 800 more villages and hamlets have been added to a list of areas depending on tankers for their daily water needs, as the stock in Maharashtra’s dams fell to 14.85%. Last year at the same time, the state had almost double the water stock (26.68%). With weather agencies forecasting a weak and delayed monsoon, the situation could get worse.

Marathwada, the state’s worst-hit region, is left with 3.02% water in all its reservoirs — not enough to tide through the rest of summer. Eight of nine major reservoirs in Marathwada, including its biggest at Jayakwadi, have no water stock. Last year, the region had 23.52% water stock in its 964 dams.

In the past week alone, 323 villages and 477 hamlets were added to a list of areas that need tanker water —taking the number of villages and hamlets dependent on tankers to 13,801 (4,331 villages; 9,470 hamlets). The state has had to increase the number of tankers supplying water from 5,154 to 5,493. “Of these, 2,917 supply drinking water to eight Marathwada districts ,” said a senior official in the water supply department.

“As sources of water dry up, the number of water tankers deployed will continue to rise until the monsoon,” he said. The most number of water tankers, 1,069 of them, have been deployed in Aurangabad, followed by Beed (882) and Ahmednagar (774).

Earlier this week, private forecaster Skymet Weather and the India Metrological Department (IMD) released their monsoon predictions, and both agencies indicated a delayed onset of the rains. According to the Skymet forecast, Vidarbha and Marathwada may receive the lowest rainfall in the country this year. The delay in the onset is attributed to a lingering El Niño, a weather phenomenon characterized by warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that is associated with poor rainfall and more heat waves in the subcontinent.

On Friday, during a review of the drought situation in the state cabinet, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis asked the officials to plan mitigation measures based on the weather forecast, a senior official close to the development said.

“Maharashtra Cabinet also reviewed drought situation, El-Nino effects, weather-related predictions, water storage in dams, fodder availability and seeds stock,” Fadnavis tweeted later. “₹162 crore has been given for fodder camps,” he said on Twitter.

The state’s relief and rehabilitation department, however, maintained that it has the issue under control. “The state is facing a situation of drought and water scarcity but we are managing it well. We are planning mitigation measures considering the delay in rains,” said Kishor Raje Nimbalkar, secretary, relief and rehabilitation department.

Nimbalkar added, “In Marathwada, the water stock is low, but much of Jayakwadi’s water is dead stock which is being used to supply water to adjoining areas. Apart from dams, we also have other water bodies such as ponds from where we are pulling out water to fulfil the needs of the people.”

According to rough estimates, at least 21,000 villages — covering 151 tehsils and 318 revenue circles — are reeling under drought .

Apart from Marathwada, 17 water reservoirs in Amravati (Khadakpurna and Pentakli dams), Nagpur (Gosikhurd, Dina and Nand dams), Nashik (Upper Tapi Hatnur, Waki Dam, Bham, Tisgaon, Bhavali and Punegaon dams), Pune (Dimbhe, Ghod, Pimpalgaon Joge, Wadaj, Temghar and Bhima dams) have also gone dry, creating acute water shortage in the nearby areas, according to statistics from the state water resources department.

For drought mitigation, the Centre has approved ₹4,717 crore in aid, of which they have released ₹4248.59 crore in two installments. The chief minister has directed all state ministers to visit drought affected villages and take stock of the situation. Fadnavis directed that all the work proposals under employment guarantee scheme should be cleared in three days so that employment can be provided to the affected ones and migration of people can be avoided, said another official.

First Published: May 18, 2019 00:40 IST