Last year, in first week of May, drought-hit Latur was provided water through 281 tankers and water trains. A year later, there isn’t a single water tanker in the 210 villages and 44 hamlets of the district, claimed officials in the state water conservation department. Similarly, in adjoining Beed district, the water tanker fleet has come down to six from last year’s 866 across 671 villages and 583 hamlets, they further claimed.
According to the officials, across the eight drought-hit districts of Marathwada region namely Aurangabad, Jalna, Parbhani, Osmanabad, Latur, Beed, Hingoli and Nanded, in all 314 tankers have been deployed this time. Last year, the number was 3,338, they said.
The officials claimed overall, in the peak summer month of May, water tankers deployed across rural Maharashtra have dipped sharply to 798 from last year’s 4,883, and they attribute this largely to the success of the state government’s Jalyukta Shivar project because of which hundreds of villages in the drought-prone regions of the state are no longer dependent on tankers.
According to the officials, data from 34 districts (out of a total 36 excluding Mumbai and Navi Mumbai) shows the demand for water supply through tankers has declined across the drought-prone districts of Marathwada, Vidarbha and parts of North and Western Maharashtra.
Though the average temperature across 25,000 villages, which are drought-prone out of 40,913, has been between 42 and 46 degrees Celsius, the total tankers deployed are down by 4,000 compared to last year, the officials claimed.
In North Maharashtra, the tanker fleet is down to 81 from 992 last year. In Western Maharashtra, the figure is 237 compared to last year’s 354. In Amravati division, 50 tankers have been deployed compared to last year’s 191 and, in Nagpur division, 39 compared to 12 last year, the officials claimed.
Interestingly, in Konkan, which is water-surplus, 77 water tankers are still deployed compared to last year’s 76. Sources attributed this to lack of infrastructure and not drought.
“Apart from mitigating drought, the Jalyukta Shivar programme has helped us save on expenditure on water tankers. Even if the total tankers deployed are down by 4,000, it works to Rs 40 lakh per day by conservative estimates. If we were to compare it to last summer when tankers were pressed from mid-February, the amount of money saved would be more than Rs 2,500 crore,” said a source.
The government has urged district collectors to expedite the completion of ongoing Jalyukta Shivar projects before the onset of monsoon. The third phase of Jalyukta Shivar will cover 14,000 villages. The project, which was launched on January 26, 2015, has helped make 11,000 villages drought-free. More than 5,500 villages have been declared “water self-reliant”.