MUMBAI: Due to a prolonged dry spell this season, the kharif crops are under threat and the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of central and eastern Maharashtra are on the brink of drought due to depleting levels of reservoirs. At least 17 of the 34 districts in the state face a drought-like situation if the rains do not pick up over next few weeks, officials claim.
Most parts of Marathwada have received average monsoon rains this season, but of the nine major dams in the region, two have dried up and the average water storage in dams is barely 28.81 per cent, not sufficient to last until the onset of the next monsoon. Jayakwadi reservoir, which is considered the lifeline of Marathwada, had just about 45.88 per cent water storage on September 18, 2018 as compared to 87.63 per cent on the same day last year, figures released by the water resources department on Tuesday show.
The Manjara reservoir in Latur district has only 1.80 per cent water today compared to 88.04 per cent on the same day last year, while Majalgaon in Beed district is completely dried up. It had 60.48 per cent water stock last year.
In Amravati division of western Vidarbha, the average water storage is 57.37 per cent, while in Nagpur division, the eastern Vidarbha, the average water storage in reservoirs is 50.02 percent.
However, an official from the water resources department said, "It will be too early to predict the region will face severe scarcity. Generally, we expect rain till October end."
Minister of state for water resources Vijay Shivtare blamed Sugarcane for the situation. "Sugarcane needs huge water. Despite having sufficient water in Manjara dam last year, it is almost dried today due to excess use of water from the dam to cultivate sugarcane. There are three sugar mills in the district and have crushed 34 lakh metric tons of Sugarcane this year," he said.
Meeting of sub-committee on relief and rehabilitation chaired by revenue minister Chandrakant Patil is yet to be held. The final decision about announcing drought-like situation is likely to be taken after October 15, an officer from the revenue department said.
"It is a general practice to conduct initial crop survey after October 15 and final survey after November 15. Unless, the survey is conducted, announcement on scarcity area can't be made," the officer said. But, added that the situation is grim in at least 17 districts of the state.