THE unremarkable little town of Hingoli, home to about 1 lakh people, is the best placed across the Marathwada region in terms of water supply. Its water demand is just over 9 million litres a day (mld), and supply is inching towards 8 mld. The Siddheshwar dam across the Purna river is located 28 km from the town — and about 5.15 million cubic metres of water in the dam is reserved for Hingoli until August 2016. At this level of comfort, residents do not grumble much. After all, they get water once every 3 days, the pipelines crackling to life for about an hour.
With the arrival of steam-washed wagons bearing water for the residents of Latur, the city whose fortunes were turned around by former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is suddenly the face of Marathwada’s water crisis. But while Latur’s 5-lakh population may have necessitated urgent solutions including the expensive, inconvenient and obviously unsustainable supply of water in railway wagons, urban water scarcity elsewhere in this arid central Maharashtra region is just as dire.
With nearly 13 lakh people, Aurangabad has the biggest appetite for water in the region — 200 mld. Supply skims 135 mld, with citizens getting municipal supply every second or third day. The reason Aurangabad’s water scarcity does not make national headlines is the Jayakwadi dam, Marathwada’s largest, with a live capacity of 2,100 million cubic metres. Data from the Maharashtra government’s Water Resources Department shows the available water in the dam is zero, but dead storage is now being pumped to supply water to Aurangabad as well as a clutch of other entities — Aurangabad district, Jalna town and district, local industrial parks under the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDCs), and several villages, among others.
Even taking into account evaporation losses, the Jayakwadi dead storage will provide water to Aurangabad once every two or three days until the monsoon arrives.
The other important urban centres in Marathwada are Nanded with over 5.5 lakh people, Parbhani with a population of 3.5 lakh and Jalna with nearly 3 lakh people, each with a growing demand-supply gap in water.
Nanded’s demand is 100 mld, supply is 50 mld. In Parbhani, demand is nearly 30-35 mld, municipal supply is currently 17 mld. Jalna, a trader town known for its entrepreneurs and Marwari industrialists, receives 20 mld against a demand of 48 mld.
Municipal supply makes an appearance for a few hours once every four days in Nanded, seven days in Parbhani, and eight days in Jalna.
Beed city, with its nearly 2 lakh population, fares equally poorly: though officials claim supply is 23 mld against a demand of 30 mld, supply is only once every 8 to 10 days.
The stated current supply schedule is a best-possible scenario — municipal supply will be available once every 7 or 8 days if, and this is a big if, there are no “technical glitches”. These range from fresh leakages to electricity disruptions, malfunctioning pumping systems, and more. This is the reason that residents in various parts of these cities often report receiving water only once every 10 to 15 days, or worse.
Not all district headquarters towns have a 100% pipeline network either. Parbhani city, for example, has about 60%-65% coverage; 38 tankers supply to the remaining areas. In the country’s most rapidly urbanising state, multiple tehsil towns in each district, have a rudimentary water supply infrastructure.
In every city and small town in Marathwada, borewells complement municipal supply. Urban local bodies neither have a count of the numbers that are permitted, nor is seeking permissions the norm. Municipal officials in Parbhani, for example, admit that the alarming drop in ground water levels seen this summer in the city is a major reason for the unrest over poor water supply.
Parbhani, after Latur, was the second town where prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were imposed in localities near water supply bodies, a preventive measure to ensure peace and order amid a difficult summer. The order is in force until May 3.
Water tankers, new borewells and municipal supply once every few days are annual summer episodes in Marathwada’s cities. Following back-to-back years of scanty rainfall and the near-complete failure of the 2015 monsoon, coupled with depleting water tables, have led to this summer’s ordeal.
WATER & TRAIN PLAY
The Bombay High Court has moved all IPL matches after April 30 out of Maharashtra. That’s a total of 13 matches — 6 in Pune, 4 in Mumbai and 3 in Nagpur. Before the court order, 50,000 litres was used every couple of days to water the ground and pitches at Wankhede; roughly the same amount was used in Pune and Nagpur. There is no estimate of how much potable water is used to maintain sports stadia, golf greens, lawns, gardens, playgrounds, etc. in the state.
Each wagon of Latur’s Water Express supplies 50,000 litres. Six 10-wagon trains (adding up to a total of 5 lakh litres per train — a fraction of Latur’s estimated demand of 18 million litres per day) had reached Latur by Monday. The plan is to increase the supply to 25 lakh litres per train — which, when it happens, will be a significant augmentation.
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