DYING OF THIRST
Over 10,000 villages and 15 of Maharashtra’s 35 districts face a drought- like situation
Malti Palvi, a 27- year- old housewife from Sakhare, a village in Thane district around 80 km from Mumbai, stands in a queue to take water from a nearby well at 6 a. m. Her turn comes only after 2 p. m. because more than 100 women are ahead of her. Sakhare is not an isolated case. At least 15 out of 35 districts of Maharashtra face chronic shortage of water due to drought, which according to Water Supply Minister Laxman Dhobale is more severe than the state’s worst in 1971.
While districts such as Thane, Solapur, Sangli, Parbhani, Hingoli, Washim and Yavatmal received 80 to 90 per cent rainfall in 2011, other districts like Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar, Aurangabad, Jalna, Osmanabad, Nanded, Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur recorded 60 to 70 per cent of what they usually receive annually.
According to data from Dhobale’s department, almost 10,000 villages in the state are facing acute water shortage. Water supply to district headquarters like Jalna, Osmanabad, Beed, Dhule, Aurangabad, Solapur and Nanded has been restricted to once in two days. Villagers in Akola and Buldhana districts have no option but to drink contaminated water.
People in 10 villages in Washim district have given up using toilets at home. It is equally bad in Thane district. “Human excreta is creating acute health problems but we are helpless,” says Jiva Waghera, a villager from Vikramgadh.
Quarrels over water have become common. A woman died in a stampede at Mokhada village in Thane. The villagers of Shahapur and nearby areas accuse politicians of “snatching” their water. “There are four major dams in Shahapur but the water from these dams goes to Mumbai, leaving us high and dry,” says Mahadev Bhanushali, a villager.
The Congress- led state government has adopted a wait- and- watch policy. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is reluctant to declare drought although the revenue department has predicted crop shortfall. He has asked the administration to increase the number of water tankers to 1,500. “Water scarcity is worrisome. We are closely monitoring the situation,” he says. His deputy and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar has ordered aid of Rs 8,000 per hectare to farmers in western
WATER SUPPLY MINISTER SAYS THE DROUGHT IS MORE SEVERE THAN THE STATE’S WORST IN 1971.
Maharashtra, a stronghold of his Nationalist Congress Party.
The state government’s request for Rs 2,700 crore is still pending with the Centre. “The government is not serious about the drought situation,” says Vinod Tawde, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, after a four- day tour of droughtaffected areas in Satara and Sangli. Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi also visited Satara district on April 28. But with the next elections only in 2014, politicians are unlikely to take the drought seriously.
AVILLAGER FETCHES WATER FROM THE
DRYDAHREJARIVER, IN SAKHARE