The shadow of the deficient monsoon continues to haunt rural Maharashtra, where as many as 3,000 villages, mostly in central Maharashtra and Marathwada, have seen severely depleted groundwater levels this year. Experts have warned that these villages may face a drinking water crisis by the end of the year unless a contingency plan is put in place to control the situation.
The groundwater situation is particularly grim in some parts of Pune and parts of Ahmednagar, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Solapur, Satara, Amravati, Akola, Hingoli and Latur districts.
As many as 114 talukas saw the steepest fall, by over 3 meters, in their groundwater levels in September, as per the latest post-monsoon groundwater scarcity report issued by Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA). “Rainfall during monsoon season has been far below normal and the groundwater recharge in many villages have remained unsatisfactory in comparison to the discharge rates,” said a senior GSDA official.
The report, which contains figures about groundwater levels from the last five years, pointed out that this year’s levels are among the lowest in the last half-decade. The average annual rainfall for Maharashtra is 1,133 mm. Phaltan in Satara district has recorded the lowest average annual rainfall of 316 mm, while Vaibhavwadi in Sindhudurgh district was the wettest region in the state, with an annual average rainfall of 5,656 mm.
“There is an immediate need to prepare a contingency plan to provide drinking water in 2,941 villages, mostly in Marathwada and adjoining Madhya Maharashtra regions. These areas are most likely to face acute drinking water shortage soon, or even before the end of 2018,” warned the GSDA official.
The latest scarcity report confirms that 185 talukas have an over 20 per cent rainfall deficit, including 3,342 villages where the groundwater levels have dropped by over 3 metres, followed by 3,430 villages where groundwater reserves have fallen between 2 to 3 metres. Given the depleting groundwater levels, farmers are bound to have a tough time during the upcoming rabi season, said experts. The kharif season this year has also seen lower than average yield, as the rainfall between June to September was far from sufficient.
“The southwest monsoon was particularly deficient in the districts of Satara, Solapur and adjoining areas. But because of the poor recharge of groundwater, drawing enough water to irrigate the rabi crop also appears to be a major challenge for farmers,” said an official from the India Meteorological Department.
Not all of the report’s findings, however, were negative. In as many as 7,212 villages, the groundwater tables depreciated within 2 metres and 12,911 villages recorded a good recharge in their groundwater levels at the end of September.