Celebrations are on in Marathwada. It’s been raining for nearly 10 days now, and the region till recently in the news for a water train is marking the end of four years of drought with sweets, drums and photos next to overflowing dams. While delighted, officials now have a different problem on their hands: eight people have died in the past few days in Beed due to water-related incidents. Villages have got inundated, and in Beed, the NDRF had to be called in for help.
Officials said small and medium projects in all the eight districts of Marathwada are overflowing, while the big capacity dams too are either full or have crossed the 50 per cent mark. One of Beed’s biggest dams, Bindusara, is full after 10 years. More rain is predicted in the coming week.
Beed District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said the district had received around 45 per cent of its average rainfall in the past four years. Till Sunday, in the showers brought by a retreating monsoon, Beed had received 105 per cent rainfall. The district has crossed its annual average rainfall mark of 666 mm, with 700 mm rain.
On Sunday, many people gathered to watch the opening of the sluice gates of the overflowing Majalgaon dam (16 TMC capacity) in the district, done for the first time in four years.
Acknowledging the celebrations, Ram said, “We are now facing a problem of plenty. There is not a single well or lake or irrigation project that is not overflowing.” The district administration sought the NDRF help after water from swollen rivers entered villages, he added.
In neighbouring Osmanabad, people have been gathering along banks of overflowing rivers to celebrate. Its two key dams, Lower Terna (4 TMC capacity) and Sena Kolegaon (5 TMC), which also cater to Solapur district, are fast filling up. They had gone completely dry before the rains. At 50 per cent, Terna is fuller than it has been in 20 years.
The 17 medium-sized dams and 90 smaller projects in Osmanabad are all overflowing.
District Collector Prashant Narnaware said that compared to 49 per cent rain the past four years, Osmanabad has got 92 per cent so far. He is also battling the problems caused by this sudden surge, he added. Recent rains cut off six villages, and residents from two had to be shifted to safer places.
In Latur district, the worst-affected in the Marathwada drought, where water was brought on a train for at least four months, Manjara dam is three-quarters full. The dam is a lifeline for Latur city’s five lakh population.
The average annual rainfall in Latur is 802 mm. Till Sunday, it had received over 900 mm rainfall, officials said.
Latur Deputy Municipal Commissioner Sambhaji Waghmare said Latur city is set to get more regular water supply. Right now it gets water only every fortnight. “Since Manjara dam has filled up beyond 70 per cent and Manjara river too has enough water, residents will get tap water every five-six days,” he said.
Shahbaz Sayed, the owner of an Internet cafe in Latur city, distributed sweets to his customers on Sunday. “We have been living a nightmare for years, but because of the heavy downpour, our miseries have ended,” he said.
The story is the same in the other five districts of Marathwada — Nanded, Parbhani, Jalna, Hingoli and Aurangabad. The eight districts incidentally have seen nearly 800 farmer suicides since January, primarily due to crop failure.
The burst of rain could, however, damage soyabean and cotton crops. Ram and Naraware estimated 10 to 20 per cent loss of the soyabean crop.
However, Ram pointed out that the rabi crop was likely to gain. “The farmers must not worry as they can rely on crop insurance (for the kharif crop), but should now go the whole hog for rabi crop.”
District officials said the Jalyukt Shivar works undertaken by the state government (with the objective to make Maharashtra drought-free by 2019) would ensure that the benefits of the rain last. “Wells and lakes in Osmanabad will be recharged,” said Narware. The desilting work in dams, rivers and nullahs will pay rich dividends, added Ram.