No bathing, washing in drought-hit Beed
It is 11 am in Beed, 300 km from Pune in Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region. Just last week, the city witnessed two sunstroke deaths as the mercury crossed 45 degree Celsius.
Unmindful of the intense, 40 degrees Celsius heat, Sunita Wadmare, a middle class homemaker, starts walking in search of a private borewell to fetch water as the Beed municipal corporation has been supplying water just once in 15-20 days.
This is the reality in Beed for the average resident amidst the severe water crisis caused by the ongoing drought.
The day for many in the district’s 22 lakh population, of which 2.4 lakh resides in Beed city, starts by searching for water from borewells. Those who don’t have borewells have to plead with their neighbours for water.
“The washing of clothes is dependent on the availability of water,” said Sunita.
Almost every house in Beed has large water drums to store water and the Wadmare family has four barrels of 300 litres capacity each to store water for household consumption. The first 10 days after a fresh round of water supply run smoothly, but managing the water stock in the next 10 days becomes difficult.
There are many like Sunita in Beed who are forced to take bath every alternate day as a result of the water scarcity.
Usha Jadhav who resides in the Shivajinagar area said her family does not use the toilet due to the acute water shortage. “We cannot use 5-10 litres of water for flushing as we have to purchase water.”
Usha said that women wait for the darkness of the night to defecate in the open. She constructed a toilet at her residence in December under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but that is not being used.
As a result of the acute water scarcity, the residents of Beed are entirely dependent upon private water tankers and pay Rs 250-300 for 1,000 litres of water.
These tankers are filled at various private wells and borewells in and around the city. Also, the sale of bottled water has increased manifold. Hotels and restaurants in the city have been left with no option but to offer packaged drinking water to customers. Since March, hotels and restaurants have stopped giving filtered drinking water to customers in view of the water shortage.
A political bastion of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, Beed, in the 1997 EAS Sarma Committee Report had figured in the top 100 rapidly growing backward districts in the country. However, two decades later, Beed continues to languish because of poor management, consistent drought and lack of transport connectivity.
Among the worst drought-affected regions of Maharashtra, Beed has been hit by 50% rainfall deficit according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune. Of the 11 talukas in Beed district, seven have had 30-50% rainfall deficit and the remaining four showed more than 50% rainfall deficit during the 2018 monsoon.
About 80% of the population of 22 lakh lives in the villages and rainfall-dependent agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the people. While the district has an annual average rainfall of 666.36 mm, it received around 334.70 mm rainfall during the 2018 monsoon.
Beed district, including the 2.4 lakh people in the city, are directly dependent on the Bindusara dam and the Majalgaon irrigation project which provides water supply to Beed city throughout the year. However, this season, the Bindusara dam is almost dry and the city is relying on the dead water stock of the Majalgaon project. According to the civic administration, the city needs 28 MLD (million litres per day) of water per day; however, as of now the administration is able to provide just 19-20 MLD of water. Consequently, the entire city is dependent on private water tanker operators to procure water.
While the residents have been complaining that the civic administration has failed to provide water tankers to meet the water demands of the city,
As a result of the 50% rainfall deficit, the sources of water in the district have failed to recharge and have virtually dried up due to the rise in temperature. Many borewells in the city have water stock at a depth of 300-500 feet and are almost dry.
People have to pump for around half-an-hour to get one “handa” (an urn of 10-12 litres) water from hand pumps.
The residents have complained that the private water tankers have been delivering highly polluted water that is not fit for drinking. This water is being used for the washing of utensils and clothes.
According to the Ground Water Survey and Development Agency (GSDA), by March-end, all the 11 talukas in Beed district showed groundwater depletion and 943 villages had groundwater depletion of more than one metre.
To mitigate this water crisis, Beed District collector Astik Kumar Pandey has written to the Ahmednagar district collector seeking permission for water-filling points in Ahmednagar district, as the availability of water in Beed district has exhausted.