Monday December 17, 2018
Home Uncategorized Maharashtra W...

Maharashtra Water Plan struggles to fight worst drought in 100 years

Image is for representation only.

By Abhishek Waghmare

Vasudev Lokhande is the beneficiary of an ambitious Maharashtra government program to permanently transform the lives of farmers devastated by a record-setting drought, but he is unhappy about its benefits.

In an agrarian eastern corner of India’s most industrialized states, Lokhande – a weathered, unsmiling farmer clad in sandals, crumpled brown pants and a dusty white shirt – pointed to little pipe that poked through the stone wall of a well on the edge of his fertile, black-soil farm, five acres of cotton and pigeon pea.

The pipe is the outlet for a channel built to funnel rainwater into the well instead of letting it soak into the ground. It is part of the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (Irrigated Farmlands Program), on which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government has spent, for its first phase, Rs.1,400 crore in 2015 to make Maharashtra dushkal-mukt, or drought-free.

For Lokhande, the government’s efforts have not worked. With rainfall over the last two years in three of the worst-affected districts that IndiaSpend visited comparable to the lowest in the 20th century, very little water made it to the well. Like many local farmers, he had to spend about Rs.30,000 to install a pipeline and a pump to bring in water from a natural pond half a km away.

“I could bear the cost of pipeline and motor,” said Lokhande. “The majority of the farmers in my village cannot.”

IndiaSpend‘s investigation of the program reveals that the government is spreading itself thin in its efforts to reach more farmers as the drought’s efforts worsen. Lokhande’s village, Ghodkhindi, is now one of 34 – up from five earlier this year – listed for the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan in Yavatmal taluka in the cotton-rich eastern district of the same name.

“When the program began, the worst-affected villages were selected,” an agriculture officer told IndiaSpend on condition of anonymity. “Later, we were told to include all the villages that were now receiving drinking water from tankers.”

While the weekly tanker data of the state’s water supply department showed no tanker supplying water to Yavatmal taluka in 2015, the district collector’s office reported 10 tankers plying in the summer of 2015, up from 3, 1 and 11 in 2014, 2013 and 2012 respectively.

The original government order mandated at least five villages per taluka, which takes the village count to 1,800. As distress spreads, that number is now up to anywhere between 2,500 and 3,000, according to a government official who requested anonymity.

As many as 1,109 farmers in Maharashtra’s water-stressed Marathwada region of eight districts ended their life in 2015, according to an Indian Express report.

Rainfall over the last two years in three of the worst-affected districts that IndiaSpend visited (in Marathwada and Vidarbha) was comparable to the lowest in the 20th century.

Nine of India’s 29 states – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal – declared a drought in 2015, seeking as much as Rs.20,000 crore in Central aid. The centre has given Maharashtra the highest agricultural aid: Rs.3,049 crore.

A staggering 302 of the country’s 640 districts are living with drought-like conditions. The success – or failure – of Maharashtra’s drought-proofing program is likely to be closely followed by other states.

Rain so inadequate that wells dry up in November

The purpose of Jalyukt Shivar is to irrigate the village in times of utmost scarcity. Now, state officials argued, low rainfall has crippled the program.

Maharashtra’s situation – its agricultural output is India’s second largest – is universally difficult, with rainfall, short by 40 percent in 2015, the third year of deficit (it was 30 percent short in 2014, 20 percent in 2012 and above average in 2013).

Maharashtra has India’s greatest stock of water for irrigation: 35 percent of the country’s large dams and the second-largest amount of annual water resources that can be replenished, after Uttar Pradesh.

A closer look at Ghodkhindi, farmer Lokhande’s village, reveals why the Jalyukt Shivar struggles. The village has 40 micro-irrigation projects, of which the taluka agriculture department claims to have completed 15.

A third of the households (89 of 230) in the village depend on full-time farming, while agricultural laborers comprise 42 percent (471 of 1,135) of the population, cultivating small tracts of land, according to census data.

Experts and farmers told IndiaSpend that Jalyukt Shivar uses a piecemeal approach that does not account for the geological underpinnings of traditional watershed systems. It creates two problems: it spreads itself thin by benefiting only a few farms, and, instead of a long-term measure to make an area drought-free, it offers only temporary relief.

It doesn’t help that the rainfall is now lower than the lowest that anyone remembers. But this is no longer news to swathes of Maharashtra.

Many areas now live in drought-like conditions

For the last four years, drought-like conditions have prevailed in the central Maharashtra district of Beed in the Marathwada region, once part of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s arid dominion.

The scarcity, said experts, is beyond the normal deficiency in the last 20 years. Erratic, unseasonal rainfall — unsettling India’s agriculture, economy and politics — are no aberrations, IndiaSpend reported last year.

Extreme rainfall events in central India, the core of the monsoon system, are increasing and moderate rainfall is decreasing – as a part of complex changes in local and world weather – according to a clutch of Indian and global studies.

In Maharashtra, successive years of low rainfall have resulted in falling groundwater levels and early drying of natural streams.

While the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan struggles to cope with the magnitude of Maharashtra’s rural water crisis, it has, as we shall explain subsequently, worked in some cases – mainly for farmers with large land holdings. The successes and failures indicate how the program might need to be reworked. (IANS)(

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

Next Story

Maharashtra Drought Crisis: Shrikant Jadhav of Junnar finds an alternative to counter the problem

Shrikant Jadhav of Junnar in Pune district of Maharashtra has taken the initiative to supply water to the areas in the state badly affected by drought, without any external help.

The drought in Maharashtra. Image Courtesy :
  • Due to summer, this year, many of the rivers in India like the Krishna, Cauvery and many others have dried up
  • As the result of this extreme dry condition, a situation of severe drought has dawned upon several states of India
  • Shrikant Jadhav, took it upon himself to provide water to the drought affected areas with the help of his very limited resources

In 2016, several parts of India are facing a severe drought problem. As pointed out by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency, Maharashtra is the most affected state. Groundwater tables in the region have fallen way below the permissible limit and hand pumps have dried. It is after a long time that India has to face such consecutive droughts. The water scarcity is affecting a huge number of people across the drought-affected states such as Maharashtra.

Government water train. Image Courtesy :
Government water train.Image Courtesy :

The government is trying its best to help out the distressed people. A water-carrying train had been arranged to carry water to Latur in Marathwada, a severely drought affected part of Maharashtra. Junnar in the city of Pune in Maharashtra is another region gravely disturbed by the water scarcity. The government sends water supplies once every month but that is not enough for so many people.

Shrikant Jadhav helping people. Image Courtesy :
Shrikant Jadhav helping people. Image Courtesy :

A resident of Junnar, Shrikant Jadhav has been seeing the plight of the people for a long time and then he decided to do something to put an end to their suffering. “I see the rich people getting drinking water cans – this solves their problem. But the poor cannot even afford water these days,” he said to The Better India.

The poor villagers of Marathawada carrying water. Image Courtesy :
The poor villagers of Marathwada carrying water. Image Courtesy :

Shrikant has a small mobile repair shop in Junnar and it was not easy for him to take this initiative. He has spent his own money in order to supply water to the people. He approached a water supplier and negotiated the rate to 35 rupees for each can. He has supplied over 20,000 litres of water till now. He continues to carry on his noble work every day.

He calls his initiative “Parivartan Helpline Seva” and runs it along with the support from his family members. His card reads, “If you are struggling for drinking water then just make one call to get free drinking water”.

India needs more people like Shrikant Jadhav who enjoy helping the distressed and working for a cause which is bigger than their own.