In a policy shift to tackle drought, greater emphasis is being laid on requisitioning existing water structures for public utility with strict ban on using the water for commercial and agriculture activities in chronic villages facing water scarcity. It means a total ban on allowing digging of new wells in the drought-hit villages.
In Solapur, district collector Tukaram Mundhe has evolved a new model to beat the drought. To begin with, he has declared 12,000 water structures including rig wells, tube wells and ponds for solely drinking water purpose for the public. It is almost double compared to 6,400 acquired last year.
The decision comes with a rider that none of these water structures would be allowed for commercial activities or even agriculture beyond one km. In every village, the gram panchayat and local bodies are being roped in to ensure strict implementation.
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At the drought review meeting held at Latur, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has urged district collectors to evolve plans for the next four months to sustain water and fodder supply across villages reeling under drought. “Along with supply of water and fodder, simultaneous plans to proactively check further water depletion and recharging water to raise water tables should become compulsory.
Sinking underground water tables need to be tackled with the highest priority,” Fadnavis had said.
Mundhe said, “We are planning a two-pronged strategy keeping in mind the next four months till June. We are making provisions for water with the existing infrastructure which can take care of drinking water shortage.” Maintaining that tankers would be deployed only in places where absolutely essential, he indicated that wasteful expenditure which does not help villages would be ended.
In Solapur, almost 700 villages out of 1,144 face water scarcity. At present, there are not more than 10 tankers in the district. In Solapur, which houses 32 sugar mills in Maharashtra, district officials have often invited the wrath of politicians in the past, who see the drought as a business opportunity through water tanker supply to remote villages.
The state government statistics for the last 14 years show that Rs 4,000 crore were spent on water supply and fodder during droughts. Yet, there were complaints of irregular water supply. While plugging loopholes in the system, district officials have now decided to opt for case-to-case study of the villages and provide solutions for specific requirements.
Mundhe said, “At present, we have provisions to sustain drinking water and fodder till June, except in a few patches where we might see problems in May.”
District officials are hopeful that there would not be any shortage of fodder in the district which has 11 lakh big and small animals. Sugarcane which has remained uncrushed after February, 2016, would work as fodder for the animals.