Pune: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has warned that Maharashtra will face its worst drought in the last 50 years - a warning that the state government and agriculture experts also agree with. The problem is so severe, that in some parts of the state - especially in Marathwada region - the government is planning to supply drinking water through railway wagons.
With such water scarcity, the question of supplying water to agriculture and industry is not even being discussed.
Over 12,000 villages in 16 districts of the state are in severe grip of water scarcity and that includes the whole of Marathwada. Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed and Osmanabad are facing the worst crisis. So are some districts in western and north Maharashtra.
With all natural sources in these areas drying up, it has had a cascading effect on cattle and agriculture. The government has started 400 cattle camps across the state for providing fodder and water to nearly four lakh animals, but experts say even that would be insufficient as summer comes calling.
The state has requested the Centre for financial aid to ward off the grave crisis. The state ha asked for a relief package of Rs 2,400 crore but has received only about Rs 780 crore. The government has already pressed the panic button and all sources for getting water are being taken over - be it private wells or handpumps. Even neighbouring states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been asked to help provide water to nearby districts.
Orders have been issued that drinking water would be the first priority and if that suffices then the additional water would be supplied to agriculture and industry. But looking at the depleting water levels in the state it looks a remote possibility that agriculture and industry would get their share.