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?
Above: Dry Pravara River Bed, with sugarcane on one side and frantic well drilling in the riverbed on the other (Photo: Parineeta Dandekar)
Large parts of Maharashtra are facing possibly the worst droughts in the past 100 years, the third drought in the last 4 years. There are multiple components to this: poor rainfall in 2015 monsoon on the back of failed 2014 monsoon, relative dry winter, loss of four back to back crops, dangerously depleting groundwater levels and no restriction on water intensive crops, water use by urban areas and industry. Currently, the situation is unprecedented even for drinking water. Section 144 has been clamped in Latur, possibly first time in the history for safeguarding water sources, protect tanker water supply and avoid unrest.Continue reading “Sugar Industry Lifts (read steals) drinking water released for Maharashtra’s Drought-hit places”→
Above: Water released from Bhama Askhed Dam for Ujani Dam, April 2013 Photo:Author
Today (14th January 2016) Maharashtra’s Marathi AgroDaily announces[i]: “ 3 TMC Water will be released from Bhama Askhed and Chaskaman Dam for Ujani Dam from tomorrow, 15th January 2016. Looking at the opposition to this by farmers in Pune district, the release will happen under strict police protection. Electricity to farm pumps near the river will be disconnected for 7 days between 15th-22nd January to avoid water theft”.
Above: Ashok Pawar’s motorbike cruises right inside his dry field, even after recent showers in Marathwada Photo: Ashok Pawar
After a heartbreaking gap, retreating monsoon is now blessing Marathwada with some showers. Small water harvesting structures and those built under the Jal Yukta Shivar Abhiyan, a flagship project of CM Devendra Fadnavis, are clocking an increase in water levels. 96.3% of average September rains in just the first 10 days of September (Dept of Agriculture, Govt of Maharashtra) is indeed a respite for a region that stands at the doorstep of an epic drought. What is lost in June-July-August in terms of crops failures, water scarcity, dismal dam storages etc., cannot be compensated by September rains, which are a fraction of total monsoon (June-July-Aug-Sept) rainfall. But if the rains continue, they can help drinking water situation and possibly Rabi crops. It is heartening to see the farmers celebrating this downpour.Continue reading “Sugarcane in Marathwada: A Syrupy debate amidst Lowest June-Aug Rainfall in the Century”→
Marathwada, a region known more for its routine and severe droughts in the recent years, now showing the highest rainfall deficit in the country at 48%.
Marathwada (which coincides with Aurangabad Division of Maharashtra) consists of 8 districts in the heart of Maharashtra: Aurangabad, Beed, Latur, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Jalna, Nanded and Hingoli.
The region has a population of about 1.87 Crores and a geographical area of 64.5 Thousand sq. kms. Nearly the entire region, barring parts of Beed, Latur and Osmanabad, falls in Godavari basin. This has historically been a rain shadow region with average rainfall of about 700 mm, but in districts like Beed, it dips down to 600 mm. Apart from Godavari, no major rivers originate or flow through Marathwada except rivers like Purna, Shivna, Dudhna, Velganga, Sindhphana, Bindusara, etc. These are modest rivers, which carry little water as the harsh summer approaches. This is unlike Vidarbha (to the east of Marathwada) which has mighty rivers like Penganga, Wainganga, Wardha etc., or Khandesh and Western Maharashtra to its north and west, which have bigger rivers, denser watersheds and more rainfall.
Since the past 4 years, Marathwada has been facing exceptionally cruel weather. June-September Monsoon, which is the lifeline of most of this rainfed region, has been playing truant. Last year, the region experienced highest rainfall deficit in the past 10 years at -42%. In two districts it was much more than 40%, leading to a severe water crisis. To give you an example, the JJAS (June, July, August, and September) rainfall in Parbhani in 2014 was just 346 mm, barely 4 mm more than rainfall during the horrifying 1971 drought! These two are the lowest rainfall figures for Parbhani since 1902, for more than 113 years!Continue reading “Drought and Marathwada: An Oft repeated Tragedy”→