Climate Change · Dams · Drought · Monsoon

Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll: “Warming Indian Ocean means a Weakening Indian Monsoon”

AboveAll-India Summer Monsoon (June-September) Rainfall Anomalies during 1871-2015. Note that since 1950s, not only has the incidence of droughts increased, but rainfall in the excess of 10% has also decreased markedly Source: IITM Paper Interanual Variations of Indian Summer Monsoon

When it comes to Global Warming and Climate Change (not interchangeable terms), India and the world have witnessed a series of firsts in the past year. The last 11 months have been the warmest months in recorded history, each monotonously breaking a previous record[i]. In India, regions like Maharashtra including Marathwada have experienced back to back droughts, in addition to increasing frequency of Extreme Weather events like Hailstorms and unseasonal rainfall. Variability of Western Disturbances has increased, which is linked with extensive anthropogenic warming over Tibet[ii]. Our response to Climate Change and the challenges it poses has been far from satisfactory. There has been no impact of National Action Plan for Climate Change, due to the inherent problems in its inception[iii]. State Plans lay languishing for several years, without clear accountability and transparency[iv]. India’s INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) indicate more harm than good.[v] Continue reading “Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll: “Warming Indian Ocean means a Weakening Indian Monsoon””

Dams · Maharashtra · Marathwada

Latur Drinking Water Crisis highlights absence of Water Allocation Policy and Management

Above: The dried up Manjara Dam near Latur. Photo: Vivek Bendre, The Hindu

On the 16th of January 2016, when Latur City in the heart of Marathwada was receiving drinking water once in 15 days and when plans of bringing water from Ujani Dam, about 300 kms away were being mulled upon, I was standing on the wall of the Lower Terna Reservoir in Osmanabad, about 40 kms from Latur. The dam has been at dead storage for the past 3 years. There are a string of jackwells inside the dam, to take water to rural drinking water supply schemes in Osmanabad and Latur for Nilanga, Killari and recently Ausa in Latur and Makani and Omerga in Osmanabad. Water Filtration System which is supposed to supply drinking water to 14 villages in Osmanabad lies defunct for years, even as the Revenue Minister inaugurated a brand new system for Latur City. Villages supposed to receive water from the dead stock stay thirsty. This is also the same Lower Terna Dam from where water is being taken for the Latur city in tankers now. Continue reading “Latur Drinking Water Crisis highlights absence of Water Allocation Policy and Management”

Marathwada

Sugar Industry Lifts (read steals) drinking water released for Maharashtra’s Drought-hit places

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”

Agriculture · Dams · Groundwater · Interlinking of RIvers · Krishna River · Maharashtra

Maharashtra’s Water Sector in 2015: Did anything change with the government?

Above: A huge protest march against water release to Marathwada Photo: Zee 24 Taas

In 2015, with the change in the ruling party after 15 long years, Maharashtra had a massive opportunity to break free from the crisis-ridden and scam-ridden image of its water sector. Water and dams have been central behind the embarrassing loss of Congress-NCP government in the 2014 Loksabha elections. But could the ruling BJP government actually deliver such a “Paradigm Shift” as it likes to call it? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the state that is facing not only management scams, but repeated droughts and extreme weather events?

We try to review happenings around water, dams and rivers in Maharashtra for the past year 2015 and to look for a possible direction where the sector is heading, trying to fathom what it holds for the rivers and the people of the state. Continue reading “Maharashtra’s Water Sector in 2015: Did anything change with the government?”

Dams · Groundwater · Marathwada

Beautiful but Dry: Dug-Wells of Marathwada in the times of drought

I was looking at a piece of blue sky, from the insides of a step-well. The well was stunning. Perfect. An example of appropriate technology which blended with its surroundings while enhancing it. “This is beautiful” I exclaimed as I climbed up, exhibiting all my city-bred exuberance. An old lady sunning herself next to the well looked at me with sad eyes.  “Yes. But a well is not a well without water. This well has not seen water for the past two years.” 

Wells in Marathwada, like the region itself, are beautiful and poignant. Marathwada’s dry wells are also a reminder of the mistakes we’ve committed, of how we’ve plundered with what we have or had. Continue reading “Beautiful but Dry: Dug-Wells of Marathwada in the times of drought”

Dams · Maharashtra

Dams and Equitable Water Distribution: Learnings from Maharashtra

Above: Placard proclaiming Ahmednagar’s claim over Mula Dam waters, protesting any downstream release Photo: Zee24 Taas

While largely unheard of in the country, bitter intrastate water conflicts are now routine to Maharashtra since the past few years. Come November or December, just as the state wearily puts behind one more sad monsoon, newspapers start carrying pictures of desperate farmers standing inside canals challenging dam authorities to release water. Politicians are quick to use this opportunity to deepen schisms between the state. Continue reading “Dams and Equitable Water Distribution: Learnings from Maharashtra”

Agriculture · Dams · Irrigation · Madhya Pradesh · Maharashtra · Marathwada

Pulse Farmers: Custodians of Fertility, Water and Climate-friendly Agriculture

Above: A rainfed Tur (Arhar/Pigeon Pea) field in Amravati in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, October 2015

Pulse prices are raging in Indian markets, leading to outrage from urban customers. Newspapers are full of coverage, cartoons and puns on pulse prices. The fate of rural population facing successive droughts which has to buy pulses is better left to imagination. If some benefits of this price hike were to reach actual pulse farmers, it would have been some consolation. But for now, as Pulse farmer Ashok Pawar from Osmanabad tells me, the Tur (Arhar/Pigeon Pea) that is in the market is last year’s. It was sold to the middle men (Adatya in Marathi) and market committee at a low rate as the production was dismal due to late rains and drought followed by unseasonal rainfall. This happened in 2013 too. Tur from 2014 is now being sold at a record price, the farmer watches this helplessly. Continue reading “Pulse Farmers: Custodians of Fertility, Water and Climate-friendly Agriculture”

Maharashtra · Marathwada

Water and Sugarcane Crushing in Maharashtra: In search of sustainability

Sugarcane Crushing is set to start at any moment now in Maharashtra[i]. About 164 Sugar factories[ii] have put up proposals for securing Crushing Licenses with the Sugar Commissionerate of Maharashtra. With crushing, will begin debates, protests and demands for well deserved Fair Remunerative Price (FRP) for farmers and soft loans, subsidies, debt waivers and monetary help for sugar factories from state and Center. Sugar factories will put up justifications on why they cannot afford FRP (yet again) this year, how financially sick they are and, at the same time, how they are the only option for drought affected Maharashtra. Continue reading “Water and Sugarcane Crushing in Maharashtra: In search of sustainability”

Maharashtra · Marathwada · Monsoon

State says 59.9% rainfall, IMD says 73%: Highlights and discrepancies of Maharashtra’s Monsoon 2015

30th September marks the end of June-September South West summer monsoon in India and Maharashtra. The 2015 summer monsoon has proved to be the worst monsoon in the last six years for India. Rainfall deficits are seen in all major food-producing regions like UP (47% deficit), Bihar (28% deficit), Punjab and Haryana (32% deficit). This is India’s second successive year of high rainfall deficit, and only the fourth time this has happened since 1901.

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Monsoon retreats from the country and the states on various dates. Some welcome showers are falling and are further expected in Maharashtra in the coming weeks, but the summer monsoon figures are now set. According to meteorologist Akshay Deoras. “Rain counters are refreshed on 1st October and new count of post monsoon season or winter monsoon season will start now.”

First week of October calls for an analysis of the summer monsoon, its performance in June, July, August and September and the implications this holds for various sectors.

People of Maharashtra have heard about, seen and experienced the dismal monsoon of 2015. Marathwada fared the worst, and was number one deficit state in the country at 52% deficit for a long time. However, at the end of monsoon, deficit of Marathwada is 40%. This is more worrisome as it comes piggybacking the 42% rainfall deficit in Marathwada in 2014, with rainfall of just 398.8 mm.

But, in order to understand the situation better, if one tries to analyse rainfall figures from various reputed official sources, one is taken aback by the disparities. We looked at official Indian Meteorological Department[i] figures, official Maharashtra Agriculture Department[ii] (Rainfall Recording and Analysis) figures and numbers from the 49th Cabinet Committee Note of the Government of Maharashtra dated 30th September 2015 accessed by SANDRP[iii].

All are concerned with Monsoon rainfall from 1-6-2015 to 30-9-2015. All of these contain different figures!

Indian Meteorological Department: IMD generates its rainfall data for Maharashtra based on its approximately 878 rain gauging stations spread across the state[iv]. According to IMD, regions of Maharashtra fall in rainfall deficit this year of varying proportions. Konkan region shows deficit of 31% with 2914 mm rainfall, Madhya Maharashtra shows deficit of 33% with 488.1 mm rainfall, Vidarbha shows deficit of 11% with 848.2 mm rainfall, but the highest deficit is Marathwada at 40% with 412.4 mm rainfall.

3According to IMD, between 1st June to 30th September, Maharashtra has received 732.5 mm rainfall of its 1007.3 mm average normal rainfall, which is 73% of average rainfall (27% deficit).

5 Districts that have received 50% or less of the average rainfall include

Kolhapur (803.4mm, -54%)

Solapur (231.8 mm, -51%)

Beed (287.4 mm, -50%)

Latur (372 mm, -51%) and

Parbhani (344.9 mm, -54%)

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From http://hydro.imd.gov.in/hydrometweb/ . Thanks to Akshay Deoras for indicating this

The region-wise, month-wise rainfall in Maharashtra this monsoon, as per IMD figures was as per following table.

Rainfall, mm Konkan-Goa Vidarbha Madhya Maharashtra Marathawada
June Normal 663 161 140 138
Actual 781 254 177 119
July Normal 1147 318.9 247.8 192.5
Actual 581.5 137.8 111.7 26.8
Aug Normal 759.6 305.7 289.1 188.2
Actual 388.7 288.9 56 112.2
Sept Normal 344.7 169 152.4 164.2
Actual 253.8 167.5 143.4 154
Monsoon Normal 2914.3 954.6 729.3 682.9
Actual 2005.0 848.2 488.1 412.4

Where is Madhya Maharashtra? Incidentally, IMD classifies the country in various categories.  Maharashtra includes Konkan, Madhya Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha. Madhya Maharashtra includes Nashik and Pune Divisions of whopping 10 districts, from Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nashik, Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara, Solapur, Sangli and Kolhapur. This region is not uniform in any sense, neither rainfall-wise, nor geographically nor is it “Madhya (Central) Maharashtra”. Any assessment based on a Madhya Maharashtra is meaningless in a sense as it clubs Kolhapur, at the southern tip of Maharashtra whose normal rainfall is more than 1500 mm with Dhule at the northern end of the state whose normal rainfall is about 500 mm and includes areas of Tapi, Narmada, Krishna and Godavari basins. It is time IMD adds some rationale to its meteorological divisions in India.

Maharashtra Agriculture Department: Agriculture Department of GoM runs a very useful website:  maharain.gov.in which displays detailed data from its Rainfall Recording and Analysis Department. It states: “The department of Agriculture, Maharashtra State initiated the project for recording daily rainfall in the state in year 1998. Initially rainfall data was recorded at tehsil level and subsequently same functionality was extended to circle level from 2013 as GoM has installed rain gauge at every circle. Circle officer sends daily rain data using mobile through SMS. In addition to SMS rain data can be entered directly on the web portal.”

Prima facie it appears that Agriculture Department may have a better spread in the over 40,000 villages in Maharashtra than IMD’s 878 rain gauging stations.7According to Agriculture Department, of the 353 administrative blocks in the state (taluks):

  • 65 bocks have received rainfall less than 50% rainfall (18.4% blocks). Most of these are concentrated in Solapur and Marathwada region.
  • 174 blocks have received rainfall between 50-75% rainfall.
  • Just 23 blocks have received 100% or above of normal, and these are concentrated in Vidarbha and Nandurbar, Northern Maharashtra.6

Cabinet Note of Government of Maharashtra, 49th Meeting, 30th Sept 2015: It reports that state has received 678.5 mm rain of the avergae 1131 mm, that is 59.9% or 60% of the average. But as we saw above, IMD says its 732.5mm of average 1007.3 mm, 73% of the average. There is no explanation for such widely different figures in the cabinet note.

Agricultural experts like Nishinkant Bhalerao states that the 60% magic figure will make any drought aid difficult and that it masks the monthly disparities which very badly affected this season’s Kharif. For example, Marathwada received barely 14% of its July average rainfall, a mere 28 mm, but cumulatively mainly due to late Spetmeber rains, this anamoly is hidden.

According to the note:

  • 13 districts of Dhule, Nandurbar, Pune, Aurangabad, Buldana, Akola, Washim, Amravati, Wardha, Nagpur, Bhandara, Gondia, Gadchiroli received between 76-100% average rainfall,
  • 17 districts of Thane, Palghar, Raigad Ratnagiri, Sindhudurga, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Satara, Sangli, Jalna, Beed, Latur, Osmanabad, Nanded, Hingoli, Yavatmal, Chandrapur eceived between 51-75% average rainfall and
  • In 4 districts, rainfall has been less than 50%, these include Nashik, Solapur, Kolhapur and Parbhani.
  • Strangely, IMD states Nashik received 729 mm rainfall till 30th Sept and has just 20% rainfall deficit but for the same period, Agriculture Department shows Nashik has received just 484.8 mm rainfall, and shows a rainfall deficit of about 52%! The difference between the two values is whopping 244.2 mm, more than entire seasonal rainfall of Solapur!!
  • IMD note also includes Beed (just about here at -50%) and Latur (-51%) in less than 50% rain, these are not included in the cabinet note.
  • Agriculture Department statistics includes Osmanabad in less 50% rainfall bracket, but it is not included in Cabinet Note

Cabinet note talks about 355 blocks, while Agri Dept considers 353 blocks and Government of India[v] considers 351 blocks in Maharashtra!

Sr. No Cabinet Note, 30th September 2015 Agricultural Department Government of Maharashtra, 1st October 2015
Blocks with less than 25% rainfall 1 1
Blocks with 26-50% rainfall 49 64
Blocks with 51-75% rainfall 171 174
76-100% Rainfall 105 91
100% or more 29 23

While discrepancies in these sources is not the subject matter of this discussion, there is definitely a need to streamline and improve monsoon rainfall reporting. This is especially important at a time when policies, drought assistance, insurance payment to farmers and water allocation decisions are heavily dependent on rainfall figures. If we cannot get our rainfall figures right, it raises a lot of questions about our capacity to monitor and understand the most important weather event of the year, on which lives of over 50% of the population directly depend! There is a vast difference not only in observed rainfall, but also supposed normal rainfall figures, which skew up the percentages.

Below: Notable differences between IMD and State Govt Data

District IMD (mm) State Agriculture (mm) Difference in Actual Rainfall (mm)
  Normal Actual Rainfall % of Normal Normal Actual Rainfall % of Normal  
Dhule 523.5 533.5 101.9% 530.5 448.2 84.5% 85.0
Nashik 912.2 729.0 80% 1013 484.8 47.9% 244.2
Satara 723.8 455.7 63% 834.2 539.5 64.7% 83.3
Solapur 474.2 231.8 49% 488.8 193.9 39.7% 37.9
Kolhapur 1737.6 803.4 46% 1772.4 634.8 35.8% 168.6
Yavatmal 855 663.3 78% 911.4 479.1 52.6% 184.2
Nagpur 923.9 970 105% 988.5 938.2 94.9% 31.8
  • Solapur gets less than 1972 rainfall: According to Agriculture Dept, Solapur has received low rainfall of barely 193.9 mm from June-Sept. This is on top of 25% rainfall deficit in 2014 monsoon. In the epic drought of 1972 also, Solapur received more than this at 224.9 mm rainfall.[vi] This year, Solapur has received less than half of the rainfall Rajasthan received! This also seems to be the lowest monsoon rainfall Solapur received since 1901!
  • For two consecutive years, Parbhani has received less than 50% rainfall (326.9 mm this year). In fact it’s June –July August Rainfall this year is lowest in the century.
  • The district which has shown the highest deficit is Kolhapur. As per Agriculture Department data, it has received just 634.8 mm rainfall, 35.8% of its normal average monsoon rainfall. Strangely, IMD shows 803.4 mm rainfall this monsoon for Kolhapur, which is 46% of normal. The difference of 168.6 mm is too huge to be ignored and needs to be explained.

Reservoir Storages:

  • Reservoirs storages at Maharashtra state level are at 56% of live storage capacity right now. But this is again masking the regional disparities. Marathwada has just 15% storage and 9 months ahead before the next monsoon. Four of its reservoirs are at 0 Live Storage (Mazalgaon, Manjara, Nimn Terna, Nimn Dudhna). The biggest Dam Jayakwadi is at a mere 7% storage.
  • Nashik division upstream of Marathwada also has relatively low storage at 59%.
  • Pune is slightly better at 61%.
  • Nagpur, Amravati and Konkan divisions are above 70%.

Some Contingency Planning steps:

  • Even in this situation, westward diversion of water from drought-hit Bhima-Krishna basin to high rainfall Konkan region and down to sea by Koyna and Tata dams continues, with no attempt to stop this completely wasteful diversion in this dry season.
  • No information is available in public domain about district-wise planning of available water resources till the commencement of next monsoon
  • No strong decision has been taken by the government about restricting or regulating sugarcane crushing which will commence from 15th October and which will consume lakhs of liters of water in the most severely drought-affected parts of the state.
  • No strong decision on limiting new area under sugarcane in Solapur and Marathwada regions, which will be planted after this harvesting and crushing season.

While IMD states that Maharashtra has received more than 70% average rainfall and State Government pegs it at around 60%, the reality is that water situation in Maharashtra especially Western Maharashtra, Nashik region and Marathwada is dismal. Erratic rainfall with long dry spell in July and August has affected Kharip crops, groundwater levels and surface water storages. There is a need to immediately work on a participatory contingency planning of the available water resources for the coming year.

This planning cannot happen in a closed door manner by the cabinet or group of ministers, but should include and respond to water users and farmers and should be built on the principles of equity and sustainability. MWRRA also needs to get into its act. The people of the state are waiting for such an initiatives from the government and MWRRA.

– Parineeta Dandekar, with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar

END NOTES:

[i] http://www.imd.gov.in/section/nhac/dynamic/Monsoon_frame.htm

[ii] http://maharain.gov.in

[iii] Shared by Shri. Nishikant Bhalerao, Editor of Adhunik Kisan

[iv] http://www.imdpune.gov.in/research/ndc/rainfall/DRF_STN.htm

[v] http://indiawater.gov.in/IMISReports/NRDWPDistrictMain.aspx?IState=018&StName=MAHARASHTRA

[vi] http://www.indiawaterportal.org/met_data/

Maharashtra · Marathwada

Sugarcane in Marathwada: A Syrupy debate amidst Lowest June-Aug Rainfall in the Century

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”