EVEN as a 10-wagon train on a trial run started its 342-km journey from Miraj in Sangli district to Latur on Monday, the Latur district administration scotched reports that it has run out of water, stating that it had not sent any SOS to the state to send water from other districts. Latur, it is widely believed elsewhere in Maharashtra, is in the middle of its “worst” water crisis in decades.
“We have enough water —nearly 5 mcm (million cubic metres) — in four of our barrages. This (stock) will last till the monsoon arrives…(in) July,” District Collector Pandurang Pole told The Indian Express on Monday.
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Pole said the district was staring at a similar situation six months ago, when Manjra dam had 5.3 mcm water. That, he pointed out, took care of drinking water needs of 10 lakh people. “For nearly six months, 5.3 mcm water took care of 10 lakh people. Why would 5 mcm water not be sufficient for the next three?” he asked. The rest of the district’s population — about 4 lakh — will get supply from “other sources”, he said.
The move to get water through train, it appears, was mooted by BJP leader Makrand Desphande. “At a party meeting in Nashik, I had suggested to CM Devendra Fadnavis that since Sangli district has enough water, it could be supplied (to Latur) through train. Two days later, the CM deputed (Revenue and Agriculture minister) Eknath Khadse, who made the announcement about supplying water by train,” Desphande said.
Former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan said there was a plan to provide water through a train to Osmanabad district during his tenure. “Since the need did not arise, the plan was dropped,” Chavan said.
Sources in Central Railways said the work on laying a six-inch pipeline up to Miraj railway station is under way. “It will take three or four days to be completed. The 50 wagon train could be run after that,” an official said.
While Chavan said he is not aware of any previous instance of water being carried in train, Shiv Sena MP and veteran politician Chandrakant Khaire said Marathwada region has till date “survived on tanker water” and this is the first time that water will reach there by train.