Armed with the recently submitted Integrated State Water Plan (ISWP) for Godavari basin as its roadmap, the state government has decided to set up projects to maximise use of 3,789 million cubic metres of surplus groundwater in the Godavari basin and help farmers bring larger parcels of land under irrigation.
While the ISWP, undertaken to bridge regional disparities in water availability through better water management, shows that groundwater tables are higher in parts of Vidarbha, facilitating projects like wells for irrigation, it has cautioned that in Marathwada there has been over-exploitation of underground water and the region needs to undertake water recharge measures.
Over-exploitation has also ruled out new dams and mega projects in Marathwada region. The report pointed out to the shrinkage of groundwater at the biggest dam in the state, Jayakwadi in Marathwada, attributed to over-exploitation of water through new projects over the last six decades. The report had recommended a ban on new irrigation projects upstream Jayakwadi dam.
The report had put groundwater availability in the Godavari basin, comprising 30 tributaries, at 17,498 million cubic metre (mcm). However, 70 per cent of this is considered to be of utility, and works out to 12,248 mcm. Almost 8,459 mcm of this 12,248 mcm accounts for planned use for agriculture, irrigation and other sectors and the surplus is 3,789 mcm, which the government plans to tap through projects like irrigation wells.
A senior officer in the ministry of water resources said, “Through the ISWP, we get an exact idea about areas where water situation is critical and where there is surplus underground water. Accordingly, we can make plans for the agriculture and irrigation sectors.”
The river basins where there is no scope of new projects in Marathwada include Upper Godavari, Pravara, Mula, Lendi, Manar and Terna. However, watershed projects in Marathwada, where permissible, includes Middle Godavari, Sudha and Suvarna. It gives the nod for new projects in Vidarbha in Penganga, Wardha, Venganga, Irai, Andhari, Nag, Kolar, Kanhan, Vainganga, Bagh, Khobragadi, Pranhita, Indravati accounting for total water availability of 217.73 TMC.
The ISWP for Godavari basin is the first by any government in Maharashtra. Last week, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is the chairman of the state water council, said, “We expect a detailed IWSP for Tapi, Narmada, Krishna and western flowing rivers by March 2018.”
The Godavari basin encompassing 152.59 lakh hectares of land accounts for 108.41 lakh hectares under agriculture. Almost 50 per cent of the total agriculture and irrigation in Maharashtra can be attributed to the Godavari basin. There are 30 tributaries under the Godavari basin.
The area covered by Godavari basin is 49.62 per cent (1,52,598 sq km) and water availability is 27 per cent of the total in Maharashtra. Whereas, Krishna with 22.45 per cent (69,032 sq km) has 13 per cent water availability, Narmada with 0.43 per cent (1,338 sq km) provides the lowest 0.5 per cent water to the state, and Tapi with 16.68 per cent (51,304 sq km) provides 4 per cent water.
In the absence of planned projects, much of the water in western flowing rivers covering land area of 10.82 per cent (3,07,500 sq km) flows away.
According to the report, the main crops in the Godavari basin cultivated by 50 to 55 per cent of the farmers include cotton, soybean, jowar, bajra, wheat, tur, harbara, sugarcane, orange, lemon, grapes, banana and vegetables.