South-west monsoon arrived in Maharashtra on June 4, earlier than expected. Nearly 60 per cent of the drought-hit state’s districts have received more than 100 per cent of average rainfall in the first 10 days of June. However, the state may not be able to recover from the persistent water crisis any time soon. Water stored in the reservoirs, particularly in the districts facing scarcity, is running out by the day, according to reports by the water resources department on rainfall and water storage in reservoirs of the state. For the situation to improve, consistent spells of rains are needed, say observers.
Low on water
According to reports, the reservoirs are holding only 14 per cent of their total water capacity. Marathwada, the region worst affected by drought, has reservoirs filled only to 4 per cent of their capacity, compared to 5 per cent last year.
| Monsoon cues farmers’ pre-sowing season activity
- Sowing has picked up slowly, states a recent statement by the Chief Minister’s Office. Of the state’s 134.69 lakh hectares under kharif crops, 0.3 per cent of the area had been sowed till June 10. In Konkan, Kolhapur and Pune divisions, pre-sowing activity for rice crops is on in full swing.
- Between June 1 and 10, as many as 177 of the state’s 355 talukas have received more than 100 per cent rainfall. In 124 other talukas, rainfall was between 50 and 100 per cent of the average for the same period.
- Despite above average rainfall, 5,456 tankers supply water through tankers to villages as compared with 2,554 tankers last year.
Pradeep Purandure, former associate professor, Water And Land Management Institute (WALMI) in Aurangabad, says, “The (irrigation) year is about to end, so low water storage in reservoirs is expected. We will have to wait till September-end to get an idea (about the water situation). It is too early to expect even marginal improvement (in the quantity of water stored in reservoirs) after just 10 days of rains.”
Irrigation in the state is planned according to the recommendations of the reports presented by the S G Barve committee on irrigation in 1962. The irrigation year begins from July 1 and ends on June 30. Use of water is planned accordingly and is divided on the basis of crop seasons—July 1 to October 14 (kharif), October 15 to February 28 (rabi) and March 1 to June 30 (hot weather). Thus, water levels in reservoirs are bound to decrease in June and require consistent heavy showers to replenish them.
Eknath Patil, principal secretary, state water resources, agrees with Purandare. “Rainfall may have been good but water usage is continuous. No improvement in the quantity of water in reservoirs means the rain is not enough to ensure storage of good amount of water in the catchment area. Some reservoirs—Koyna, Radhanagari and Bhandardara—do get filled by August 31 or September 15. But normally, we expect the reservoirs to be filled by October 15,” says Patil.
Madhav Chitale, water expert and head of the state’s special investigations team on the irrigation scam, explains the short-term benefits of the recent heavy rainfall and its ramifications for the agriculture sector. “Because of good rainfall, there is certainly an immediate relief in water-scarce areas. Nallah, bunds and talabs, among other small reservoirs in villages, have been filled. For animals it has come as a relief as grasslands, on which the cattle feed, have benefited from the rains. For farmers the next spell of rainfall is crucial as sowing season is all set to begin. Once the hot and arid climate returns briefly before the next spell of showers, farmers will undertake sowing. Once sowing is done, the arrival of sufficient rainfall on time will be crucial,” he says.
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