May 28, 2019 3:10:23 am
In the last seven days, 305 villages and 547 hamlets have been added to the list of areas that are being catered to by water tankers, with the water crisis in Maharashtra worsening by the day.
More and more rural neighbourhoods are reporting high to extreme stress over clean water access.
With fresh water stock in dams fast depleting and the weather department forecasting a delayed onset of monsoon, the government’s own data reveals that residents of 4,920 villages and 10,506 hamlets are now dependent on water tankers for their daily needs, including drinking water. Between May 20 and May 27, the count of water-parched villages has gone up from 4,615 to 4,920.
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A fleet of 6,209 tankers has now been pressed into service to transport water to these arid regions — the highest-ever deployment in the state’s history. Around this time last year, only 1,622 tankers were in operation. In 2016, when the state had suffered from another deficient monsoon, officials said 6,000 tankers were deployed at the time of peak scarcity. The state’s Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, when contacted, confirmed that the state’s dependence on water tankers had risen.
In 2017, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had set 2019 as the year to make Maharashtra tanker-free, vouching for water conservation work carried out under the government’s flagship Jalyukt Shivar initiative. With his government failing to fulfil this promise, the Opposition has raised questions over the implementation of the initiative. Refuting the Opposition’s accusations, Fadnavis has contended that erratic monsoon had led to the water shortage.
Marathwada, the worst-hit region, is now left with less than three per cent water in all its reservoirs. Eight of the nine major reservoirs in the region have already plummeted below the live water stock. Around this time last year, these reservoirs collectively had 18 per cent live water stock.
More than 52 per cent of the tanker fleet has been deployed in Marathwada alone. In Aurangabad, where more than 749 villages are facing water shortage, 1,131 tankers are now in service. Beed, which reported 632 water-scarce villages, has 908 tankers while Jalna had 633 at the last count. In North Maharashtra, also reeling from acute shortage, 808 tankers have been deployed in Ahmednagar and 336 in Nashik. Meanwhile, Solapur is the worst-hit region in Western Maharashtra with more than 304 tankers.
Earlier this month, private weather forecaster Skymet Weather and the India Meteorological Department had both predicted a delayed monsoon onset, raising further concerns.
“The state is facing a severe drought and water shortage. But adequate mitigation measures have been put in place. We have asked the local district collectors to implement relief measures on a war footing. The implementation is being monitored at the highest level,” said the chief secretary.
With the crisis worsening, Fadnavis had instructed senior bureaucrats in Mantralaya to review the implementation of relief measures. A report in this regard is being readied.
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