The state government plans to bring in a comprehensive water management policy to tackle the severe water scarcity that has gripped 28,000 out of 40,000 villages in Maharashtra.
The four core areas proposed include a complete ban on release of untreated sewage water in rivers and dams.
The water resources ministry along with the urban development ministry has agreed to make it mandatory for all 27 municipal corporations and 350 municipal councils to install sewage treatment plants. Now, 80-95 per cent of the water released into rivers is untreated.
The state has five major river basins — Godavari, Krishna, Tapi, Narmada and Western Flowing — which form the premises for drinking water, agriculture and industries across Maharashtra. There are a total 82 sub-river basins of which 42 fall in the category of water-deficit.
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Two aspects are under consideration — whether to curtail permissions of new industrial units along these 42 sub-river basins or make it mandatory for industrial units to avail recycled water from the municipal corporations and councils to address their requirements.
To make municipal corporations and councils financially viable, the possibility of allowing the sale of some percentage of recycled water to the industrial sector is being explored.
“If we succeed in sewage water treatment and use of recycled water for industries, it would ease the pressure on water availability in river basins and dams by almost 25 per cent. This can be supplied in abundance for drinking and agriculture purposes,” said a senior official.
At present, 11 big dams in Marathwada have only three per cent water left. The water management policy of the state government intends to address the larger issue of both hydrological as well as agriculture drought. Of the 28,000 villages, almost 15,500 villages are facing hydrological drought and 12,500 villages are reeling under agriculture drought. The agriculture drought is confined to the districts of Vidarbha region.
Another aspect that would be determined through this policy relates to sectoral allocation of water. A source said, “The water resources ministry is flooded with requests for release of additional water from one river basin to another to meet the problems of drinking water. There are others seeking water for agriculture use and industries.”
To resolve the problems, the government will make water audit compulsory. It would be followed by spelling out sectoral distribution in accordance with requirements and availability.