Ru­ral In­dia Waits for the Wa­ter Train

The Economic Times - - Front Page -

Jayashree Bhos­ale, Mad­hvi Sally, PK Kr­ish­naku­mar &

Su­tanuka Ghosal

Pune | New Delhi | Kochi | Kolkata: Farm­ers in Kasegaon, a vil­lage in south Ma­ha­rash­tra, have been spend­ing .₹ 20 crore ev­ery month to make sure their grape or­chards get enough wa­ter — with­out ir­ri­ga­tion, the crop would shrivel up and die. But they’re luck­ier than some of their coun­ter­parts else­where in the coun­try — at least there’s wa­ter to be had, al­beit at a stiff price. Two back-to-back mon­soon fail­ures, 2015 be­ing the hottest year on record, poor post-mon­soon rain, an alarm­ing de­ple­tion of reservoirs and a heat­wave that’s forecast to con­tinue and even in­ten­sify — all this has changed the coun­try’s wa­ter eco­nomics dras­ti­cally for farm­ers, house­holds, busi­nesses and hy­dropower. This year’s mon­soon is ex­pected to be good, but of­fi­cials say it may take up to three months for wa­ter scarcity to ease as soil mois­ture has dropped sharply.

De­pleted reservoirs will take time to fill up to nor­mal lev­els af­ter rain­fall gath­ers pace in June and July.

Wa­ter is so scarce that prices are ris­ing across the board de­spite the ar­rival of the new har­vest. Chana has risen 25% in 20 days, mus­tard 15% in a month. Traders ex­pect maize

Rain Watch and wheat to be­come costlier when the har­vest sea­son ends. Chilies are rac­ing to­ward a new high of .₹ 125 per kg while sugar prices have risen 33% in nine months and dal is up 80% since last year; it’s likely to re­main pricey even if the mon­soon is boun­ti­ful. The In­dia Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal De­part­ment may an­nounce its forecast for the June-Septem­ber rainy sea­son on Tues­day.

The price in­creases, how­ever, have not led to a cor­re­spond­ing rise in ru­ral in­comes.

Wa­ter is so scarce that prices are ris­ing across the board de­spite the ar­rival of the new har­vest

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