A train with 10 wagons, each carrying 50,000 litres of drinking water >reached Latur on Monday. Maharashtra government decided to send a water express to the drought-hit district from the Ujani Dam. According to State Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, another water Express, will reach Latur within 15 days.
Latur has been without a source of water for nearly 50 days. >Section 144 was invoked to avoid riots over water as all sources have dried up. Not more than five people are allowed at wells and public storage tanks for the next two months. Water tankers go there once a week and locals receive tap water just once a month.
“The municipal corporation has already deployed home guards at the water tanks. If needed, we will deploy police there to prevent any law and order issue from arising over water supply,” Latur Superintendent of Police Dnyanesh Chavan had told PTI.
“There are six main water tanks in Latur. There is already a police chowki next to one of the tanks. We have increased patrolling in these areas,” Mr. Chavan said.
The >Delhi Jal Board has also offered to send one million litres of water daily (MLD) to Marathwada region.
Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti >announced that a Central fact-finding committee will visit the district to assess the situation and suggest possible solutions to tackle the water crisis.
Crisis hits Pune too
A string of bad rainfall years, coupled with bureaucratic myopia, and the ravages of indiscriminate urbanisation, are wreaking havoc with the groundwater table of western Maharashtra, which traditionally receives heavy rainfall.
In the 540-odd villages across 13 talukas in Pune district, the groundwater levels have plummeted alarmingly, to 1m, as per a recent report by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA). And more than 100 of these villages showed depletion of groundwater to more than 3m.
This acute water scarcity has stunted the growth of the rabi crop, with eight of Pune’s 12 tehsils reporting 40 per cent less than their normal sowing.
“The government has failed to develop durable social assets in the form of micro-water sheds. The only solution to avert catastrophe is to stop all non-essential uses of water and direct it only for drinking purposes,” Prof H.M. Desarda, economist and former member, Maharashtra State Planning Board said. >Read full story
IPL faces the heat
At a time when the State is reeling under what is touted as the ‘worst drought of the century’, a PIL was filed by NGO Loksatta Movement seeking a stay on IPL matches held in Maharashtra.
Aside from Mumbai, which is facing 15-25 per cent water cuts, the state will host IPL matches at the Maharashtra Cricket Association in Pune and the Vidharbha Cricket Association at Nagpur.
The Bombay High Court has >rapped the BCCI and the cricket associations in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra over water wastage when the State is reeling under severe drought. The court also suggested moving IPL matches out of Maharashtra. But the idea didn’t go well with the BCCI.
State Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured that potable water will not be provided to IPL stadiums. The government informed the court that drinking and irrigation was their priority and only treated water will be given to stadiums
While Mr. Fadnavis was open to consider High Court’s suggestion, his party colleague and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur >warned that doing so will result in a loss of Rs. 100 crore for the State.
“Maharashtra gains Rs. 100 Cr from IPL and if the tournament goes out of the state, it will be a loss for the state,” according to Mr. Thakur.
A PIL filed in the Bombay High Court points out that about 60,000 litres of water is required per day to maintain pitches. “The IPL Commissioner should be asked to pay tax of Rs. 1,000 per litre for meeting expenses of supplying water to the drought-affected district,” said the PIL.
The PIL also notes that 3,228 farmers committed suicide last year allegedly owing to crop loss.
While the Bombay High Court refused to stay the inaugural IPL match at Wankhade stadium in Mumbai, it asked the State government and the BMC to conduct an inquiry into the source of water used by cricket stadiums in the state.
The IPL finals is also scheduled to be held at Wankhade. But that depends on April 12 court ruling.
Sugar adding to woes
Accusing Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of >ignoring his warnings on the severity of the drought impacting Marathawada Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav on Saturday said 31 per cent of the gram panchayats in drought-affected districts had not shown any expenditure under MGNREGS, according to official data, till March 31.
Mr. Yadav said he had suggested to the government to stop any diversion of water for non-essential purposes. He had suggested temporary ban on supply of water for water-intensive sugarcane crops, ban reopening of sugar factories, regulating drawing of water by bottling plants, stopping unauthorised diversion of water for industries.
“It is a crime against humanity to supply water to sugarcane crops when there is acute drinking water shortage. Activists have repeatedly pointed out how sugar factories are sucking out water in the Marathawada region, but yet in Latur, water was supplied to sugarcane farming,” he said.
The article has been corrected for a factual error.
Ujani dam is situated in Solapur district of Maharashtra. But it was mentioned as being situated in Miraj.