Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan on Saturday faced protests in Nashik by farmers against the decision to release more water from upstream dams of Godavari in North Maharashta to Jayakwadi reservoir to tackle the severe drought in eight districts of Marathwada. Farmers in North Maharashtra are against the decision to release water to Marathwada.
Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) had ordered the release of 12.85 TMC of water from dams in North Maharashtra to Jayakwadi dam in Marathwada.
Jayakwadi is only at six per cent water storage. This dam caters to drinking water and irrigation requirements of Latur, Beed, Osmanabad, Jalna, Aurangabad, Hingoli, Nanded and Parbhani in Marathwada region.
The decision to release water from Pravara, Mula, Gangapur and Darna dams in Ahmednagar and Nashik has not gone down well with sugarcane farmers.
According to leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, “The decision would adversely affect farmers in North Maharashtra. There is already water scarcity in our region. Instead, why don’t they utilise dead water storage from Jayakwadi, which can sustain drinking water requirements in Marathwada.”
However, it is not farmers of North Maharashtra alone who are up in arms against release of water to Marathwada region, amongst the worst hit by drought.
Elected members across party lines from Marathwada and Nashik urged Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to address their concerns on water scarcity. There are protests in western Maharashtra over the water resources department’s decision to release ten TMC of water from Ujani dam to address the drinking water crisis in Solapur. According to politicians in Pune and the administration, “If water is released from Ujani to meet the crisis in Solapur, it would lead to a huge scarcity in Pune city and adjoining villages.”
In a letter to the water department, the Pune collector said, “Total water storage in Pune dams does not exceed 43 TMC. Ujani has storage of 67 TMC…”
The water requirement in Pune is much higher, it stated.
MWRRA officials explained, “Our decision is based on centre-state parameters and guidelines. It is mandatory to use surplus water from upstream dams in North Maharashtra and Ujani (Western Maharashtra) to cope with drought in Marathwada and Solapur (west Maharashtra). We decided considering the quantum of water and how it can be shared.”
Girish Mahajan said, “The state government is sensitive to issues of all farmers. And we will certainly look into concerns of farmers from North Maharashtra as well. We have to look into everybody’s requirement.” However, an apex court ruling allows the state government to release water from North Maharashtra to Jayakwadi dam.
Congress leaders in North Maharashtra are mobilising farmers to take to the streets against their share of water going to Marathwada. According to Vikhe-Patil, “We are not against water sharing. But the crisis in Ahmednagar and Nashik is grave. Why is the government not considering diversion of water from dams in western Maharashtra? It would work better.”
He said, “Water stock in Jayakwadi is adequate to meet the current crisis, which should be first explored before diverting Godavari water to Jayakwadi.” Leaders in North Maharashtra believe there is rampant misuse of water by industries in Marathwada and the state government should ensure that big industries in Aurangabad, Nanded and Latur do not misuse water.