Several tehsils in Pune,including Indapur,Daund,Baramati and parts of Haveli have started feeling the heat of the drought,with drinking water getting scarcer and groundwater levels continuing to plunge.
Documents procured under the Right to Information (RTI) reveal that in the last five years,there has been an astronomical increase in sugarcane cultivation,a water intensive crop,in these talukas.
The documents reveal that the original cropping pattern under Khadakwasla dam project earmarks 10% of the irrigated land for sugarcane and the cropping pattern was modified by both the irrigation and agriculture departments in 1993 to bring down sugarcane crop to 5% of the irrigated land to prevent water scarcity. It was then felt that the irrigation department would not be able to ensure enough water for the crop.
However,the statement of the area to be irrigated in 2012-13 showed that of the total 5,488 hectare of irrigated land,2,000 hectare was under sugarcane,almost 50% of the irrigated land. Haveli had 205 hectare,Indapur 2,229 and Daund 2,586 under sugarcane cultivation.
The total output of sugar in Pune district,which has 16 sugar factories,was more than 36,000 metric tonne. The majority of the factories is located in Indapur Daund and Baramati,where groundwater has been depleting.
The annual reports of groundwater in these tehsils prepared by the Groundwater Survey and Development Authority (GSDA) show a steady decline. Both revenue and GSDA officers blame sugarcane for overutilisation of groundwater.
When contacted,senior officers of the office of the agriculture commissioner that manages crop patterns,stated they promote drip irrigation a method that prevents water wastage but cant stop sugarcane cultivation.
Activist Vivek Velankar blamed the agriculture commissionerate for the proliferation of sugarcane cultivation. They should stick to the original crop pattern and discontinue water for excess sugarcane crop, he said.
Water expert Parineeta Dandekar stated that the amount of sugarcane fields under drip irrigation being negligible,water consumption for sugarcane continues to be astronomical. Due to political pressure,no proper planning of crops in command area is done,which is fuelling a water crisis in the region, she said.