Relief to farmers hurt by Ajit Pawar’s remark
Even if Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar responded to the demand for water in Solapur in crude terms, the Bombay High Court has stepped in to give relief to farmers in the parched district in western Maharashtra.
The court on Tuesday asked the State government to release water from upstream reservoirs to the Ujani dam which is bone dry. On a public interest litigation petition, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M.S. Sanklecha directed that as much water as possible be released within 24 hours.
The demand for water for the Ujani dam was also made by Prabhakar Deshmukh of the Solapur District Janhit Shetkari Sanghatana, an organisation of farmers, whom Mr. Pawar mentioned in his speech before making his coarse remark about urinating into dams.
Farmers of the Sanghatana have been agitating at the Azad Maidan here for the past 60 days, demanding release of 3,000 million cubic feet of water into the Ujani dam. At least seven farmers have committed suicide in the district in the last few months, while four others lost their lives hunting for water, according to Mr. Deshmukh. He charged Mr. Pawar with diverting water to a sugar factory (Vitthalrao Shinde Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana) and a beer distillery of Nationalist Congress Party MLA Babanrao Shinde in Solapur.
According to a release from the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), the moot question is how much water will actually reach the Ujani dam or go to the drought-affected people. The dam gets water from the Bhima river, which originates in Karjat in the Western Ghats. Between the source of the river and the dam, there are 20-22 dams.
The government is planning to release water from the Bhama Asakhed and Andra Valley dams. Water will have to travel about 250 km before reaching the Ujani dam. A large portion of water will be lost in evaporation and seepage and drawn by farmers en route as happened earlier this year, says the statement.
The level in the Ujani dam as on April 9, 2013 was 16.74 tmcft below the live storage level. So, even if the 3 tmcft proposed to be released reaches Ujani, the level will still remain far below dead storage. SANDRP has regretted that the Maharashtra Water Resources Department has not been able to promote equitable usage of water from canals, dams and rivers.
All dams in a basin should have uniform quantum of water by October-end as provided for in the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005.
SANDRP says another reason to doubt the water going to the needy is that the Khadakwasala right and left canals and the Ujani canal are leaking.