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Rain pain: Maharashtra stares at water scarcity threat

A “scarcity threat” looms large over Maharashtra, with below-average rainfall and rapidly-depleting water levels in reservoirs.

According to the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) latest report, Maharashtra has received 31.7 mm rainfall — 52 per cent below the long period average against the normal level of 66.2 mm during the period. There is only 20 per cent water availability in 100 major reservoirs of the state. Of the 35 districts, 18 have received scanty rainfall.

“Sowing during the kharif season has completely stopped for want of rainfall. Annually, sowing is done on 12 million hectares, excluding sugar cane. Of 12 million hectares, soybean and cotton is sowed on four million hectares each on the situation while jowar and other kharif crops are sown on the balance area. The monsoon is expected to revive within a week, according to IMD’s report. However, if it still prolongs, then there will be an adverse impact on the agricultural production in the state,” Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil told Business Standard.

He, however, said there was an ample stock of seeds and fertilisers and the department had taken adequate measures for its distribution to farmers.

Vikhe-Patil said water in the reservoirs had been receding fast and the available water was now reserved only for drinking and could not be used for farming.

Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam, who heads a Cabinet sub-committee, has convened a meeting on Wednesday to take stock of the situation and take additional measures to tackle the present situation. “Already, tehsildars have been empowered to deploy tankers in their jurisdiction while the government has already announced relief until June 30 in the payment of power bills charged for lift irrigation. The sub-committee will review the prevailing situation across the state that has arisen due to below-average rainfall and take necessary steps to provide much-needed relief to farmers and members of the general public,” Kadam said.

According to government data, water in the reservoirs would be available for a month. If the monsoon does not revive, most cities and towns, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Aurangabad, would face acute water scarcity.

A government official said that only 20 per cent water was available in major reservoirs while there was zero availability in 20 other projects.

The official recalled that farmers in the state had faced severe drought-like conditions in the beginning of 2013 due to two successive years of low rainfall. Many parts of the state faced untimely rains and hailstorms during January and April this year, which caused huge damages to farm produce and horticulture crops. The government provided assistance to affected farmers by making available Rs 2,350 crore from the ‘contingency fund’.


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