When I got a call on a Sunday this October 2019 from a journalist of one of the world’s most reputed media inquiring about the Marathwada rainfall and drought this year, I wondered what is going on? South West Monsoon 2019 has seen the highest rainfall of last 25 years and most of the high rainfall happened in Central and South India. Should drought be a concern in this year too?
It’s true, as we wrote[i] in our first blog about SW Monsoon 2019 that Marathwada was the only Meteorological division of IMD (India Meteorological Department) that had a below normal rainfall among all the divisions of IMD in Peninsular and South India. But that deficit was 12%, which should not be alarming. In the second blog on SW Monsoon 2019 we mentioned[ii] that only Beed and Latur districts were in deficit rainfall category.
IMD Rainfall Data for Marthwada If we go through the IMD’s daily district wise rainfall tables[iii] and calculate monthly rainfall for Marathwada districts, we get the figures given in following table. We could do these calculations as we have been downloading the daily tables throughout the monsoon.
|June 2019||July 2019||Aug 2019||Sep 2019||June-Sep 2019|
|Actual||Normal||% diff||Actual||Normal||% diff||Actual||Normal||% diff||Actual||Normal||% diff||Actual||Normal||% diff|
We can see from this table that indeed only Beed and Latur had rainfall deficit during June-Sept 2019 in excess of 19%, thus making them deficit districts going by IMD definition. Of the remaining six districts of Marathwada, at least two (Aurangabad and Nanded) had no deficit and remaining four districts (Hingoli, Jalna, Osmanabad and Parbhani) had deficits ranging from 12 to 16%. All eight districts had deficits in June, six in July, all eight in August and almost none (Latur had just 2% below normal rains) in September. Marathwada’s cumulative rainfall deficit kept reducing from 33% in June to 29% in July, 26% in August and 12% by the end of September.
As farmer Activist Ashok Pawar from Osmanabad pointed out, the key issue here is that for farmers in Marathwada, June July rainfall is the most important one for Kharif crop, the main crop for rainfed farmers. Once they missed the sowing opportunity in June-July or if their sown crop gets destroyed for lack of rain in time, the Aug-Sept rainfall cannot save it. So for Marathwada farmers, over 80% of whom are rainfed, protective irrigation during June July is most important.
But if we were to go by the Maharain data from Maharashtra government, we see a slightly different picture compared to the IMD rainfall figures.
Maharain Data Maharashtra government has a website providing Rainfall and analysis that provides daily rainfall data, circle wise, Tehsil wise, district wise and division wise. The website of the Department of Agriculture, Maharashtra state says[iv]: “Mahavedh project is operationalised by the Government of Maharashtra (GoM) through Public Private Partnership with M/S Skymet Weather Services pvt.ltd. on Build, Own & Operate (BOO) mode. At present 2061 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) have been installed at circle level. Weather data fetched from these Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) is useful for implementation of Public Welfare and Development schemes, Research and Development, Disaster management and Allied services.” So this data is essentially gathered by Skymet, and it is supposed to be available to IMD too, but as we can see from following table, this data provides significantly different picture for Marathwada (Aurangabad division) compared to IMD date.
|June 2019||June-Sep 2019|
|Actual||Normal||% diff||Actual||Normal||% diff|
In general, the data from Maharain tells us that deficits of most districts both in June and for June-Sept season has been higher (exception: Beed, Hingoli, Jalna and Nanded (for June rainfall deficit)) as also for the Marathwada division, compared to the IMD figures. So for example, the Marathwada June deficit as per IMD is 33%, as per Maharain it is 35%. The deficit for June-Sept is 12% as per IMD and 16% as per Maharain.
But key question is, Is Marathawada districts the only one facing rainfall deficit this monsoon?
At least 99 districts have rainfall below that of Beed – the lowest rainfall district of Marathwada If we go by IMD’s district wise monsoon rainfall figure, we find that in Marathwada the lowest rainfall district is Beed with monsoon rainfall of 412.2 mm. What we find is quite revealing if we look for districts in India that have lower than 412.2 mm during 2019 SW monsoon. At least 99 districts have lower rainfall than 412.2 mm, Beed district’s rainfall during SW Monsoon, going by IMD’s district wise monsoon rainfall figures as listed below the list includes districts from Assam to UP to Punjab, Haryana, Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
|SN||District||State||Rainfall, mm||% departure from normal|
|34||North East Delhi||Delhi||345.5||-49|
|35||South West Delhi||Delhi||331.7||-44|
|47||Lahul & Spiti||Himachal Pradesh||175||-56|
|48||Anantnag||Jammu & Kashmir||204.7||-31|
|49||Badgam||Jammu & Kashmir||135.7||-27|
|50||Bandipore||Jammu & Kashmir||137||-19|
|51||Baramula||Jammu & Kashmir||381||+62|
|52||Doda||Jammu & Kashmir||309.8||-29|
|53||Ganderwal||Jammu & Kashmir||170.7||-42|
|54||Jammu||Jammu & Kashmir||360.1||-61|
|55||Kargil||Jammu & Kashmir||21.1||-44|
|56||Kulgam||Jammu & Kashmir||388||+18|
|57||Kupwara||Jammu & Kashmir||188.7||-28|
|58||Leh & Ladakh||Jammu & Kashmir||17.8||-53|
|59||Pulwama||Jammu & Kashmir||85.3||-44|
|60||Rajouri||Jammu & Kashmir||283.7||-66|
|61||Ramban||Jammu & Kashmir||375.8||-9|
|62||Srinagar||Jammu & Kashmir||215.1||4|
Basic point is that Beed is not alone, it is in good company of at least 99 other districts! Thus there are so many other districts with rainfall this season below the lowest district rainfall of Marathwada. Some of the districts listed above may have benefit of rivers, canals, snowfall or second monsoon. But even Marathwada has certain benefits, including Jayakwadi dam (100% full and gates opened four times during monsoon) and returning monsoon rainfall. As we write this on Oct 7, since Oct 1, Marathwada has already received 22.3 mm rainfall, which is 69% above normal. This was confirmed to me over phone by Ashok Pawar, a very knowledgeable farmer from Osmanabad.
Reservoir Storage Position in Marathwada Maharashtra government’s Water Resources Department website provides daily status of storage position of reservoirs in the state. If we look at the latest bulletin for Oct 7, 2019[v], we see that of the live storage capacity of 4.505 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters) in Major Reservoirs of Marathwada (Aurangabad division), 56.63% is full, of the 1.056 BCM live storage capacity of Medium Reservoirs, 21.85% is full and of the 1.81 BCM of live storage capacity of Minor Reservoirs, 14.12% is full. Overall, of the 7.37 BCM capacity, 41.21% full, which is quite significant. The % is lowest for Marathwada compared to all the six sub divisions of Maharashtra, but it is full 15% higher than what was the situation last year.
The key question is, is Marathwada using the available bounty of rainfall, water stored in reservoirs and groundwater aquifers optimally? Where it is using most of this water?
Where is Marathwada using its water? The fact is that Marathwada is using most of its available water for water intensive crop like Sugarcane. As per the Aug 2019 report of Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner Sunil Kendrekar to Chief Minister[vi], 3.13 lakh ha is under sugarcane crop in Marathwada out of cultivable area of 54. 51 lakh ha. His calculations showed that this area is using about 6.159 BCM water just for sugarcane cultivation. That is almost double the amount of water available at the end of this monsoon in ALL THE RESERVOIRS of Marathwada. This is clearly unsustainable. The fact of the matter is area under sugarcane and related activities is growing in Marathwada as per following figures from the report of Mr Kendrekar.
Sugarcane related activities in Marathwada
|Number of functional sugar factories||46||54|
|Crushing capacity of Sugar Factories in Tons per day||94550||157050|
|Actual crushing of sugarcane Lakh Tons||130.03||194.31|
|Sugar Production Lakh Tones||14.23||20.91|
|Alcohol Production in Sugar Factories Lakh Liters||579.53||1110.98|
Kendrekar quotes Chitale Commission (1999): “Since the water availability is less than 1,500 cubic meters per hectare in Marathwada, it is a deficient basin and made several key recommendations, including no cultivation of sugar cane, no permissions to new sugar mills, and transfer of existing factories from deficit river basins to abundant basins.” He also quoted an earlier SANDRP report[vii]: “South Asia network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has mentioned in it’s report that, if 50% of the water being used to cultivate sugarcane in the region was diverted to production of pulses, it would mean livelihood security to over 22 lakh farmers as against 1.1 lakh sugarcane farmers supported now.”
The govt, however, is happy to take up band aid solutions like drip irrigation for sugarcane rather than taking any effective steps to curb the unsustainable cropping pattern of Marathwada: the best known elephant in the room. Key to provide the farmers with confidence inspiring scheme including alternative crop that guarantees them the returns similar to sugarcane and demonstration that farmers GET those can of returns.
Ashok Pawar informed SANDRP that this is exactly that is NOT happening. For example he said that the Soyabean price in market dropped on Oct 7 to Rs 3700 per Quintal in three days, from Rs 4000. Urad price dropped to Rs 5200 in three days from Rs 6000. Mung price dropped even further to Rs 4500 from Rs 7000. This clearly does not inspire any confidence for the rainfed farmers of Marathwada. He also said that while Maharashtra govt has done nothing about the suggestion of Aurangabad commissioner, one impact of his advocacy may be that a lot of owners of sugar factories have shifted their support to the ruling BJP. This is alarming if true.
The answers are all there, blowing in the wind. But where is the political will to take any steps in the right direction? It seems Marathwada, and particularly the rainfed farmers and poorer sections are destined to face further hardships before we can see any worthwhile changes. The ongoing elections are unlikely to see such crucial issues debated.
[vi] https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/ban-sugarcane-production-in-marathwada-says-divisional-commissioner-sunil-kendrekar/articleshow/70907193.cms, https://www.financialexpress.com/market/commodities/maharashtra-official-favours-curbs-on-cane-farming-in-parched-marathwada/1691846/, https://www.loksatta.com/maharashtra-news/aurangabad-divisional-commissioner-sunil-kendrekar-recommend-sugarcane-crop-in-marathwada-should-be-banned-sgy-87-1959389/