A RIVER ONCE FLOWED

India Today - - UPFRONT - MANDAR DEODHAR

A shep­herd walks through the dry desert that was once the Wain­ganga, the largest river in the drought-plagued Vi­darbha re­gion of Ma­ha­rash­tra. This pre-mon­soon pe­riod, be­tween the mid­dle of March and early May, has been the dri­est in Vi­darbha for six years. Scanty rains in the last mon­soon has meant that reser­voirs are running dan­ger­ously low, and in the midst of a heat wave, over 7,000 vil­lages in the re­gion are fac­ing acute wa­ter short­age. Drought has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the tens of thou­sands of farmer sui­cides in Vi­darbha over the last decade. Just last month, a debt-rid­den farmer in Ya­vat­mal re­port­edly blamed Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in a sui­cide note found by the po­lice. Ya­vat­mal city re­ceives its mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter sup­ply once ev­ery 22 days. Other re­ports sug­gest that hun­dreds of thou­sands of res­i­dents in the wider district must wait up to 45 days to re­ceive wa­ter, re­ly­ing in the mean­time on prof­i­teer­ing pri­vate tankers. The au­thor­i­ties must an­swer ques­tions about the lack of ap­par­ent con­tin­gency plan­ning, given the pre­dictabil­ity of this wa­ter cri­sis.

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