Maharashtra: Water scarcity, crop worries continue in Marathwadahttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/maharashtra-water-scarcity-crop-worries-continue-in-marathwada-5825818/

Maharashtra: Water scarcity, crop worries continue in Marathwada

Of 481 revenue circles in Marathwada’s 86 talukas, villages in at least 124 circles have recorded less than 100 mm of rain since the start of the season, according to data from the state agriculture department.

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A parched area in Palghar district, where villagers often walk miles to fetch water. (Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)

WITH MARATHWADA in central Maharashtra experiencing a 33 per cent rainfall deficit, large pockets in the drought-hit region continue to witness acute water scarcity, not only squarely impacting sowing and crop choices but also prolonging the water crisis.

Of 481 revenue circles in Marathwada’s 86 talukas, villages in at least 124 circles have recorded less than 100 mm of rain since the start of the season, according to data from the state agriculture department.

Several other circles, each comprising seven to 15 villages, have recorded between 100 mm and 150 mm of rainfall — not only still a significant shortfall but also nowhere near adequate to tackle long term water paucity. Krishna Khedkar, a resident of Chaklamba village in Beed’s Gevrai taluka, has sowed cotton on his four acres but is not too hopeful of an average crop.

“The wells and borewells are all still dry,” he told The Indian Express from Chaklamba, where villagers have resorted to hunger strikes twice this year alone to draw the administration’s attention to their demand for a sub canal from the Jayakwadi dam.

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“The few who sowed early in the season are already seeing some withering,” Khedkar added. “The rest of us are praying for more rains this month, else it will be a tragedy. We may go from one drought to another.”

The villages in Chaklamba circle recorded 41.5 mm rain in June and 19.7 mm in July until now, a total average of 61.2 mm — only 31.7 per cent of the normal for this time of the year. “Everybody is paying premiums for crop insurance. For drinking water, there’s no solution in sight,” Khedkar said.

In all, at least 21 revenue circles, comprising about 200 villages, have received 70 mm or less rainfall since the season began.

The worst hit are the Madalmohi and Wadavani circles in Beed, with 43.6 mm and 48.3 mm of rainfall, respectively, till July 10. In Latur’s Nilanga taluka, Kasarbalkunda has recorded 49.8 mm while Matola in Ausa has received 46.8 mm until now. In Latur, none of the five circles in Chakur taluka and none of the seven circles in Ausa taluka has recorded 100 mm or more — the taluka average here is 81.2 mm and 70.7 mm, respectively. In Nilanga taluka, four of eight circles have received less than 100 mm of rainfall.

Though neighbouring Aurangabad and Jalna districts have received plentiful showers in comparison, in Aurangabad’s Paithan taluka, where the region’s largest dam Jayakwadi is located, nine of 10 revenue circles have received less than 100 mm of rain, with the taluka’s average precipitation until now 80.2 mm.

At least 1,210 villages and 267 hamlets in Marathwada continue to be supplied water via tankers. In some regions, tanker services had to be resumed after being suspended towards the end of June when the monsoon set in. Across Maharashtra, 3,575 villages and 1,566 hamlets were still dependent on tankers as of July 5. A few dozen cattle camps, a drought-mitigation measure typically for summer, are still operational.

“A little rain now could help us draw out a good crop, but for the water crisis to be resolved, we need very heavy rainfall through the rest of the season,” said Amol Jadhav of Nandurghat village in Beed’s Kaij taluka. Nandurghat received significant rains in June, almost 165 mm or 122 per cent of the average for June. “Everybody here completed sowing at the end of June, though closer to Kaij town, farmers are still waiting and watching,” Jadhav added.

The first 10 days of July have been dry however, with Nandurghat circle recording only 16.7 mm till date. Earlier this week, state Agriculture Commissioner Suhas Diwase had said that 43 per cent of sowing was now complete, and while officials are hopeful that sowing will pick up later in the month as rains progress, the acute water scarcity is a cause of concern.

With water levels in Marathwada’s major dams still at very low or dead storage levels, all eyes are on the progress of the Godavari’s waters overflowing from Nashik district, which has received heavy rains through last week. The Godavari overflowed into Aurangabad on Monday, and reached Jayakwadi on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, activists in Aurangabad’s Gangapur taluka threatened protests if leakages in the Tembhapuri dam are not repaired. “Not only is the Tiware dam burst fresh in our minds, but we are also still suffering from a very severe water shortage. The floodgates of the Tembhapuri dam are broken, repairs should be done urgently so that water can be conserved properly,” said Ganesh Raut, a social activist from Gangapur.