Acute water problem cripples Marathwada

People depend on water tankers in Latur city.

In Latur, the Municipal Corporation supplies water once in seven to 15 days. Several farmers have left their farms in Beed, and migrated to cities to work as construction workers. In Osmanabad, water has gone below the level of 300 to 500 feet.

Latur, Beed and Osmanabad, the three big Marathwada districts, are facing a severe water crisis. This is a major electoral issue in this region.

"This is one of the worst droughts that Marathwada is facing. Latur, Beed and Osmanabad districts are worst-affected. The situation is not good even in Aurangabad, the divisional headquarters," veteran economist Prof H M Desarda, who had been a former member of Maharashtra State Planning Board, told DH.

Latur-based hotelier Niraj, who runs Hotel Parth, starts his day and ends it with the planning of water. "We cannot depend on tap water, it comes in 15 days," he said, adding that he had to call for water tankers that cost Rs 1,500 for 5,000 litres.

'Takerwada, not Marathwada'

"The situation is going from bad to worse, people from the region, particularly Beed, are going to cities and towns like in search of livelihood," leader of opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde of NCP, who hails from Beed, said.

"It appears Marathwada has become tanker-wada," said Congress MLA Amit Deshmukh, the son of late chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. In the election rallies, the Congress-NCP front claims that Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, the flagship programme of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, to make villages and hamlets drought-free in a phased manner, has failed.

However, Latur city-based BJP leader Ganesh Gaware said that the situation is changing. "We are in a far better situation this year," he said.

"The situation in Vidarbha and Marathwada, which is facing agrarian distress and farmer's suicide, remains the same... if we look at a 10 year period, it is same," said Vijay Jawandhiya, veteran farm activist.

Failure of public policy?

"This is not a meteorological drought but a hydrological drought. Rains have not completely failed but the public policy has," said Prof Desarda, a visiting professor at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune.

Veteran journalist Sanjay Miskin, who hails from Marathwada, said that rejuvenation of water bodies, rivers and plantation of trees in a scientific manner is the best option. He gives the example of Shiv Jal Kranti, a private-people's initiative in Paranda.

A few years ago, the Maharashtra government and Indian Railways had to supply water to Latur through a train known as Jaldoot Express.

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