Water Crisis Hits Maharashtra Villages Despite State's Drought-Free Goal

The irony is the Jadgaon village was meant to be drought-free by the end of this year as a part of state government's water conservation scheme - Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan.

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The Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan was officially launched by the state government in January 2016.


Mumbai: 

Maharashtra is facing one of its worst droughts for the fourth time in five years.

A village in Aurangabad, some 400 km from state capital Mumbai, is grappling with severe water crisis after the canals here ran dry recently.

The irony is the Jadgaon village was meant to be drought-free by the end of this year as a part of state government's water conservation scheme - Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan.

Locals say the canals, dug as a part of the scheme in the village, were not "dug wisely".

"The digging work was not done in a proper manner. They dug out the soil and now there is no perforation. There is no water even in the nearby wells because water just doesn't perforate. There is no water even for the farms. We are having lot of difficulty," says Shrimant Bhosale, a villager.

The Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan was officially launched by the state government in January 2016 to "provide long-term and sustainable solutions to the water scarcity problem faced by rural communities". It aimed to make the state "water secure by 2019".

Ramrao Krushna, who lives not very far from Bhosale's house, says the big JCB machines that dug deep pits in their fields may have dug the canals "too wide and too deep". Each pit, according to the locals, is about five metres deep.

"If the pits were dug 1 metre deep, water would have been stored but now we don't get any water. Other fields, which are far away, are getting benefited," Ramrao says.

Sahebrao Gawande stays in Tembapuri village, some 20 km away from Jadgaon. He also says he has issues with the way the state government scheme has been implemented.

In Tembapuri, the depth of canals that have been dug is inconsistent, according to the villagers. While some canals are 1 foot-deep while others nearly three-feet deep.

Villagers complain that contractors have done a "shoddy work".

"The state government doesn't work properly. Where it needs to dig at least 1 metre deep pit, it just dug 1-1.5 feet deep pit. They would just remove the upper layer of soil and throw it alongside," says Sahebrao Gawande.

As drought intensifies in these areas, doubts are being raised over the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan.

Since its launch about three years ago, the government claims it has spent nearly Rs 8,000 crore on the scheme, which has been implemented in over 16,000 villages in Maharashtra.

Officials say the state has created water storage facility of 24000 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) across 16,000 villages under the scheme that has also bought 34 lakh hectares under irrigation.

However, despite all this, 40 per cent of the state - over 28,000 villages in 151 talukas - is grappling with drought.

"Nobody (from the state government) consulted us. They came and started work immediately. Did not even consult us or let us ask them anything, " Bhosale says

The state government has defended the program. They blame it on the lack of rains.

In 2018, Marathwada received 534 mm of rainfall, which is about 21 per cent lesser than the normal 682 mm.

State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told NDTV, "If there is no monsoon, there won't be any water even if there are canals. The fault is not of the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan. There wasn't any water scarcity in last two years... it has come up now."

However, water expert Pradeep Purandare told NDTV, "Widening of nallahs exposes aquafer where mud can get choked up, leading to environmental damage. So, the scheme is not at all scientific and they have not done their homework. "



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