Agriculture minister Eknath Khadse announced that cloud seeding would be taken up in catchment belts of dams in Pune and Nashik regions, starting Thursday. The government has already experimented with cloud seeding in arid regions of Marathwada and North Maharashtra.
The government is pinning its hopes in the experiment as fresh water supply in the dams is fast depleting. “Cloud seeding in catchment belts will augment fresh water supply. Precipitation in these parts will also help the water flow naturally to some water-stressed belts,” Khadse said. Rains in the past few days and the projection of good rains across the state in the next few days have triggered the plan.
Official records show that the water available in Maharashtra’s dams has dropped below 49 per cent of its overall capacity. The water availability is the worst in Marathwada’s Osmanabad, Beed and Latur districts. Official records also suggest that dams supplying water to Marathwada continue to have less than 8 per cent live water stock.
However, rainfall in the past few days has raised the hopes for a good Rabi sowing. Lack of rains in the first three months of the monsoons had ravaged Kharif crops in North Maharashtra and Marathwada.
Khadse also said that at least 8000 villages, mostly in Marathwada, were facing severe drought-like conditions. On Wednesday, the Cabinet ordered authorities to collect data on rainfall, crop damage, and fodder availability for all the affected areas within eight days. On Tuesday, a ministerial sub-committee, headed by Khadse, had recommended revision of criteria for declaration of drought-hit areas. Khadse said this was also discussed at the meet. Sources said that the Cabinet would most likely accept the recommendation and formally announce a list of drought-hit villages and talukas by the end of this month.
Official records show over 1,115 villages and 3,227 hamlets in the state are surviving on tanker water and 1,990 tankers are being used currently.
About the same time last year, only 42 tankers were operational.