Nearly 500 traditional structures to aid water conservation that were built during the 1972 drought are being revived as part of a better water management strategy by the state government. The estimated budget for the project is not expected to cross Rs 100 crore. At present, there are 100 works undertaken in full swing that require a budget of Rs 20 crore.
To begin with, the state has given priority to drought-prone districts across Marathwada and parts of north Maharashtra and western Maharashtra. In Vidarbha, where water is not the problem, the revival of traditional water structures that have been lost due to neglect are being reworked as channels for effective irrigation of barren lands.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Let us not forget that our forefathers were very wise. The methods they evolved for water conservation are still relevant. What is more interesting to note is that with a minimal budget, we can maximise water storage capacities in drought-prone districts of Maharashtra.”
He added, “The three years of consecutive drought faced by Maharashtrais an outcome of policies that did not help in effective water management.”
At the end of a tour to review the ongoing works of his flagship project, Jalyukt Shivar Yojna, he exuded confidence of overriding the water crisis in state to a great degree with better water management. The tour was confined to distant interior villages that have to depend on tankers for water supply or rely on rain for good field crops. Under Jalyukt Shivar Yojna there are 76,000 works underway across the state.
The districts with high mercury levels that Fadnavis covered include the cotton growing belt in Buldhaba, Akola and Amravati districts. He also travelled to Solapur (Marathwada), Satara, Kolhapur and Sangli (Western Maharashtra) and concluded the tour with the coastal stretch of Ratnagiri district in Konkan.
Fadnavis said, “Every district has its old water holding structures such as ponds, big wells and canals that have been buried because of neglect. We have undertaken a massive drive with the help of local authorities and public participation to restore them.”
Citing an example, he said, “There are 94 such structures that have been identified which will require a budget between Rs 50,000 and Rs 20 lakh.” A tank in five hectares presently holds 0.091 million cubic feet of water. After the desilting work is over its capacity will increase to 4.825 million cubic feet.
Apart from the newly-sanctioned ‘Jalyukt Shivar Yojna’ that includes building cement bunds, nullas and canals to channelise and hold water, alternative stress on old and traditional methods of water conservation has been accorded higher priority by the government.
At the villages of Yelmar, Mangewad and Chormal in Solapur, Fadnavis said, “The enthusiasm of the locals to undertake water conservation works was heartening.” He added, “In Sangola which is perennially a drought-prone region, Wangewadi stream is almost completed.” Similarly, at Jakhangaon, Dahiwadi, Ranmala in Man Taluka of Satara district, emphasis has been laid on both construction of cement canals as well as reviving ponds and wells that have been abandoned.
The revival of 1972 drought structures would be a ‘practical’ approach to addressing water management crisis in the state, said Fadnavis.
The CM said, “Big budget dams require massive funds. One dam would require a minimum of Rs 500 crore. The Congress-NCP had invested around Rs 70,000 crore in the irrigation sector. Yet, the problems persist. I believe we need to maximise the irrigation potential with a minimal budget. We need policy corrections to maximise the resources available in the state.”