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Maharashtra reels under drought as water reserves dry up

Short supply: A farmer in Beed stores water in drums as water supply from tankers remains inconsistent.   | Photo Credit: SandeepRasal

As the water situation steadily worsens in the arid Marathwada region, districts in ‘water-abundant’ western Maharashtra, too, are feeling the lash of the drought.

Rising mercury levels have resulted in the rapid depletion of water stocks in the 22 dams which are part of the Bhima river basin in western Maharashtra and are the potable water lifelines of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Low water stock

At least five of these dams, including Dimbhe and Temghar, have 0% water stock currently, while the collective stock in seven other dams is less than 10% of their capacity. The remaining 10 have a collective reserve stock of a little over 20% .

While Pune’s Guardian Minister Girish Bapat announced that Pune city would not face water cuts, sources in the Water Resources Department said that dams in the Pune region had barely 18% water stock available as on May 6, as compared to 38% at the same time last year.

Pimpri-Chinchwad too is reeling under the onslaught of drought. The city receives water only once in two days with water levels of the Pavana dam rapidly depleting. Its water stock, which stood at 31% of total capacity at the beginning of the month, has now reduced to 26%.

Crisis in Solapur

Authorities said more than 750 tankers were deployed to provide relief to the worst-afflicted districts in the Pune division which include Solapur, Mangalwedha, Satara and Maan. The situation in Solapur is grave as Ujjani dam currently has a water level of -34.98% (dead water stock).

On Sunday, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar toured villages in Maan taluk, criticising the State government for its inadequate arrangements to combat drought.

“Merely holding conference calls over phone with secretaries and other officials and taking a review will not help provide relief to the drought-afflicted public. It is important to know the precise condition of the livestock, their owners, the fodder camps, the crops and this can only be ascertained by field visits,” he said, taking a dig at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

He further pointed out that the aid of ₹90 per animal announced by the government was insufficient for the farmer in this hour of crisis as fodder and water were expensive and scarce. “The per animal monetary aid for fodder must be raised to ₹120. Furthermore, while the government may have arranged for tankers, water supply through them was highly irregular at best,” Mr. Pawar said.

‘Contaminated water’

The NCP chief said that people had complained to him during his visit that the drinking water they received was of poor quality and often contaminated. “I am least interested in indulging in politics at this hour. But I urge the government to ensure that these problems are rapidly remedied and that employment opportunities be immediately created to prevent the increased migration of the rural populace,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Marathwada, despite the relief packages announced by the government, the scenario on ground remains grim as ever.

Residents in pockets of Parli town in Beed district are on a hunger strike in front of the municipal council protesting against the acute water shortage.

The groundwater table has plummeted sharply in several villages in the district as in other parts of rural Marathwada. In Jalna, irate residents staged a rasta roko on Saturday protesting against the alleged mismanagement and theft of water.

According to reports, the desperation of the people of Halsi village in Latur’s Nilanga taluk turned to bitter rage directed at their local representatives. The villagers had collected money to dig up three wells. But the sarpanch, citing the model code of conduct for the elections, refused its implementation, causing the citizens to manhandle him.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 1:30:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/state-reels-under-drought-as-water-reserves-dry-up/article27110558.ece

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