Rural India Waits for the Water Train
Jayashree Bhosale, Madhvi Sally, PK Krishnakumar &
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