Maharashtra stares at never-before calamity

This year's drought in Maharashtra seems set to be worse than the one in 1972, which had caused largescale devastation. Smruti Koppikar reports.
Hindustan Times | By Smruti Koppikar, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2013 02:56 PM IST

That this year’s drought in Maharashtra could be worse than the one in 1972 that wrought large-scale devastation is, by now, a stock phrase for politicians.

Just how severe it is, especially in the worst-hit Marathwada region, comprising eight districts, shows in the alarmingly low levels of water in the dams there.

The region’s 11 major dams and irrigation projects had barely 9% of their live storage (see graphic) capacity of water, the lowest ever in Maharashtra, as on March 4, according to data made available to HT. The state’s average for major dams on the same day was 32%.

The live storage of water in all dams — major, medium and minor — in the drought-hit region was 11% against the state’s average of 31%. However, the all-time low of 9% is skewed, considering that certain major dams had zero live storage levels.

These dams are Purna Siddeshwar and Lower Dudhna in Parbhani district, Majalgaon and Manjra in Beed district and Lower Terna and Sina Kolegaon in Osmanabad district. The contentious Jayakwadi dam in Aurangabad district had barely 3% live storage level.

The state has mandated that priority be given to drinking water above all other uses of water in these areas.

But the abysmally low levels, even before the onset of summer, means that the state’s best drought-mitigation measures may not suffice to prevent widespread damage and possible migration. “The 9% in major dams and 11% for all dams means our best efforts may not be sufficient to counter the effects of this drought,” said a senior bureaucrat who did not wish to be named.

The state enumerates live storage of water in dams across the state on a week-to-week basis in pre-summer and summer months. Major dams in Marathwada had 30% of their live storage capacity full in early March last year and 57% in the same week in 2011. Live storage capacity had sunk to worrying levels in 2010, but this year’s are at an all-time low.

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