WATER LEVELS in reservoirs in the parched Marathwada region have already dipped to 23 per cent of their total capacity, fuelling concerns of a severe water shortage in the belt until the monsoon returns next June.
According to the latest data compiled by the Maharashtra Water Resources department, the total live water storage in Marathwada’s 965 small, medium, and large dam projects has dipped to 1,687 million cubic metre (mcm) on November 1, as compared to their total storage capacity of 9,229 mcm. Even after considering the dead storage levels, the current water level in these dams is down to 3,364 mcm.
The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that at the same time last year, these dams were still 70 per cent full.
With Maharashtra witnessed deficient rainfall this monsoon, the Marathwada region, comprising eight districts, and Solapur district in Western Maharashtra have been the worst affected. Earlier in the week, the Devendra Fadnavis-led state government declared a drought in 151 talukas in 26 districts. On November 1, the government added some more revenue circles to the list.
A senior BJP minister, who did not wish to be named, said: “The water stock in dams across Marathwada is dipping and the water shortage will only intensify further. Water management is going to be a big challenge in the months to come.”
The state government has already issued directives to district collectors in this belt, asking them to reserve dam water for drinking water supply. In other words, industries in the parched region will be the first ones to brace for water cuts. Marathwada’s Aurangabad is an important industrial centre where mega industrial parks of Shendra and Bidkin are being developed as nodes of the ambitious Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Aurangabad alone has five estates of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), and accounts for over 3,000 small, medium, and macro industrial units. The region also boasts of some of the biggest breweries in the country, which are seen as water guzzlers.
Besides Marathwada, water levels in dams in the Nagpur division (comprising six districts) has dropped to 35 per cent as compared to 40 per cent last year. Water levels in reservoirs catering to certain districts in North Maharashtra and Solapur (Western Maharashtra) have also dipped below the normal average.
The state’s Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) had projected last month that 11,487 villages across 167 talukas in Maharashtra (state has 353 talukas in all) will face water scarcity in 2018-19.
Going by its findings, the water scarcity crisis began in 2,941 villages in October itself. While the state government has decided not to impose any universal cut on dam water supplies to industries yet, sources confirmed that the collectors have been issued powers to ration supplies to industrial and agricultural units in the parched regions after ensuring the required water supply for drinking purposes.