Adding to plight of the 19 million population of Marathwada, the severity of the water crisis in Maharashtra has deepened with only two percent of water left in dams of the drought-hit region. The live water storage in Marathwada’s three big dams is down to 116 million cubic metre (mcum), down from the 134.28 mcum last week, Hindustan Times reported.
The other eight dams, according to a report by The Times of India, are at dead storage level. The Manjara and Lower Terna dams have run totally dry. On 19 April, there was just three percent of water left in the dams, which prompted the state government to ban digging of borewells below 200 feet.
Water Supply and Sanitation Minister Babanrao Lonikar had said any violation of the decision on borewells will invite action under the ‘Maharashtra Groundwater Development and Management Act’ where violators may face fine or even imprisonment.
“The provisions of the act concerned has to be implemented strictly due to the severe drought conditions prevalent and the depletion of water stock. We have spoken to all senior officials and decided to ban the digging of borewells below 200 feet,” had Lonikar told reporters.
Negligent administration, poor water management, extreme weather events and inadequate rainfall have been blamed for the drought situation in Marathwada.
Marathwada, home to many sugar mills in Maharashtra, is one of the several regions in India that received below-average June-September rains in 2015.
Despite help trickling in to improve the conditions, adequate relief is yet to be brought to the region.
In the first three weeks of April 2016 itself, 65 farmers were reported to have committed suicide.
On 26 April, the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court had asked Maharashtra to cut the water supply by 50 percent to liquor firms immediately and cut supply by another 10 percent from 10 May.
Apart from breweries and distilleries, the court had also increased the water cut for other industrial units by 5 percent from the initial 20 percent starting 20 May.
Eknath Khadse, Maharashtra’s agriculture minister, has said the state was also planning to restrict cane cultivation and propose a five-year ban on new mills in Marathwada to conserve water.
Meanwhile, central teams have planned to study drought-affected areas in the country till June this year and prepare a long-term plan of possible actions to tackle the calamity.
The Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) teams have been asked to analyse the causes leading to drought in these areas and identify water resources management challenges.
The teams are expected to figure out gaps in water information and plans to recharge, long-run solutions and suggest measures for protection, management and restoration of water bodies.
With inputs from agencies