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An eyewitness account of Maharashtra reeling under drought never seen by generations

Maharashtra had a tag of 'most progressive state' in the country just a few decades ago. But today, 26 of 36 districts in the state battle with worst drought in last 47 years.

Meenakshi Joshi Meenakshi Joshi
New Delhi Updated on: June 01, 2019 18:31 IST
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Water levels in dams across the region have gone down to 3 to  16 per cent of the total capacity.

The state of Maharashtra is battling a drought that has never been seen in last half a century. 26 out of 36 districts in Maharashtra have been affected. We visited several districts in the state and this is what we saw. 

Ahmednagar District is one of those that have been severely affected. People here told us that during the drought in the year 1972, there was a severe shortage of food but there at least was water to drink. Monsoon rains had touched their maximum that year but rains have been increasingly weaker since. 

Today, villagers here have food to eat but no water.

Maharashtra State Government has declared 151 out of 358 tehsils in the state as drought-hit. The water level in dams across the state has gone down to just 16 per cent. In Marathwada, the water levels are at 3 per cent of the total capacity.

Monsoon is still 15 days away!

We spoke with a Pomegramate farmer in Jalgaon District, about 250 km away from Ahmednagar. Bhagwan Krishna, the farmer, is forced to buy water from the tankers for his orchards. Each tankerful of water costs Rs 20,000. He has spent Rs 1.5 lakh in last four months alone.

Pomegranates fetch Rs 80 to Rs 180 per kilograms in the market. But Bhagwan's produce has nearly burnt in the sweltering heat.  He will have to bear the loss.

Wells in these villages have gone dry. Villagers have to spend money and order water from tankers. 

Kids, adults and senior citizens. Everyone is forced to walk kilometers just to get some water that is not even drinkable. Villagers have to filter it to make it potable.

"Summer holidays are here. So I go out twice to fetch water. We need water. There is no other way," says 13-year-old Rutuja.

A woman asks, "Water tanker does not come to our village. Why is it so? We have to walk for 2 kilometers to fetch water. We don't even get water if we are late"

Girls and women are mostly the ones who go out to fetch water.

"The water we get is dirty. But have got used to it. We have to filter it each time," says a woman. She points at a handpump gone dry 4 months ago.

Cattle are bearing the brunt of drought as well. Maharashtra Government has set-up 1066 fodder camps in Marathwada. These camps provide food and water for the cattle. 

We went to another village by the name Chandgaon. We came across group of villagers singing Marathi bhajans. They told us that they were singing prayers of Marutinandan and were asking deliverance from the drought.  

Districts battling drought include Pune, Aurangabad, Parabhani, Dhule, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and many more. 

Villagers do opt for water tankers but the supply is inconsistent.

In Manmad, a water tanker comes once in every 20 days. It's 14 days for Parabhani. Villagers in Latur, Beed and Hingoli get water once every 10 days. 

Devendra Fadnavis-led state government has mobilised 5493 tankers for water supply in drought-hit districts.

The situation is grim. But what is perhaps more distressing is sheer wastage of water in urban areas of the state and largely of the country.

Water is life. There isn't a future for mankind without water. Time has come to resolutely strive to conserve water.

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