Ready to risk anything for water - Part I
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Nearly 1,500 villagers of Pimpri, 18 km from Osmanabad city, climb down the steep steps along the walls every morning and evening to fill two pots. With two consecutively poor monsoons, it is the only well in the village still left with any water. Villagers often trip on the steps and injure themselves, but that is a small price to pay.
"We don't expect good rainfall here, but through my life I have never seen rivers and wells going dry as they are now. We had water in the other wells even when it did not rain in 2002, and earlier," says Bidbaug.
The drought across the state has hit 7,064 villages, with 11 of 35 districts having received less than 75 per cent of normal rainfall.
Bidbaug's two sons gave up on farming years ago and migrated to cities, a trend in the perenially parched Osmanabad, Beed and Jalna regions. In Gandhora of Osmanabad district, Dasu Parshuram Ade, 23, is preparing to move to Pune or Satara, having sold his two bullocks at Rs 30,000 each. He had bought each at Rs 1 lakh in 2009, after a good sugarcane crop.
"I could not have borne to see them die, so I sold them. Now I'm free to go," he says. "I hope to earn enough there so that my family can buy water from tankers here."
Water is disappearing from the rivers, wells and reservoirs of Maharashtra's heartland, 13 districts across Marathwada, parts of Western Maharashtra and Khandesh. Jayakwadi, the largest dam in Maharashtra, has no live storage. Put together, reservoirs in Maharashtra are just 40 per cent full now with levels expected to keep falling.
The state has drawn extreme plans for the extreme crisis, including transporting water through rail wagons or shifting entire villages in Jalna, the district worst hit with rainfall less than 25 per cent of normal. The crisis there extends beyond the rural interiors and up to Jalna city. The city has 45 water supply zones, and one, two or three of these (depending on size) are supplied municipal council water on any day. "This effectively means that people get water in their taps once every 20 days, for not more than an hour. People hoard up as much water as they can and, once that runs out, turn to private tankers," says Rajesh More, engineer in the Jalna Municipal Council's water supply department. He too depends on private tankers at home.
Tankers provided by the government visit Walki and Gunavadi villages in Ahmadnagar, the state's largest district, once every four days and pour water into the village wells. Valmik Nagavade, sarpanch of Gunavdi, says the allotment is based on the 2001 census. "We get 20 litres per person based on the 2001 census but our families have grown in those 12 years," he says. "We bathe on alternate days with just two litres."
TOMORROW: AGRICULTURE AND LIVESTOCK
7,064 of 43,722 villages declared drought-hit
Less than 25% rainfall: 5 talukas out of 355, including those in Jalna district
25-50%: 50 talukas
50-75%: 136 talukas, including those in Dhule, Jalgaon, Ahmadnagar, Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Aurangabad, Beed, Osmanabad, Nanded districts
5-year low: Storage levels in reservoirs
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