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Nagpur: A severe drought gripping many parts of Maharashtra did not deter spiritual leader Asaram Bapu from celebrating a pre-Holi function and wasting many litres of water here Sunday, said a social group. Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS) condemned Asaram Bapu’s alleged Goli play and staged a protest. “A person [...]

Hydrological drought in Maharashtra has decimated all but the most drought resistant plants and .... sugarcane. Low rainfall in the Marathwada region where agriculture is largely rainfed, brings immediate drought conditions.

As Alertnet reports the story of Anil Joshi, who pioneered innovation in green technology for the humble Gharat (water wheel) that transformed energy production. The gharat powers a flour mill by day, and generates electricity by night. These turbines produce a whopping 264 megawatts of electricity per hour in Jammu And Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh.

"Development" has led to Maharashtra drought with widespread physical water scarcity. Rampant industries vie with fresh water intensive cash crops that sideline food production in a desperate race into oblivion. 40% of Maharashtra suffers from hydrological drought, and Maharashtra's Water Policy gives priority to non-agricultural uses of fresh water and sets the stage for rural indebtedness. Additionally, 6% of cultivated area producing sugarcane takes up most of the fresh water in the irrigation systems. Political clout has led to violations in equitable water management result in agricultural irrigation systems falling short of water not receiving hoarded water upstream. The crunch is directly on rural India.

Jalna has farmers cutting down healthy sweet lime trees to conserve water for a smaller number to survive the water scarcity. Buldhana gets water once a month and no more quantity than a bucket and half per person per day. Women are walking for hours in search of water, people are spending hundreds of rupees transporting water, while others are spending thousands on booking private tankers. Aurangabad is supplying water with 1,153 tankers to 931 villages and 506 wadis and 2,475 wells have been acquired to source fresh water.

There are still more thermal power plants and water intensive industries planned in a fossil fuels orgy of "development" in a region where water is scanty, while water conservation remains a distant dream. Coal burning power plants are the in thing and there is little effort to harness alternative energy. According to an excellent report in Down To Earth, 140 thermal power plants with a collective capacity of 55,000 MW have been planned for the region. 27 new plants are proposed along the Wardha river basin according to Yogiraj Doodhpachare, an environment scientist at Janata Mahavidyalaya in Chandrapur. Thermal power plants in Vidarbha have received  2,049 million cubic meter (mcm) from agricultural irrigation systems in the region contributing to physical water scarcity for agriculture.

Sharad Pawar has announced Rs.1000 crore for converting all sugarcane farming to drip irrigation systems, which may not be adequate to make the  region water sufficient. In contrast, a method of organic farming using mulch in the irrigation canal, that needs virtually no investment and drastically reduces need for water as well as other inputs is being ignored. Swimming pools in five star resorts, water parks or even distilleries in the state continue to operate.

Itron claims that metering Mumbai's water supply has helped the Municipal corporation to find and fix leaks - which would sound like a great thing, except Itron Chief Executive Officer Philip Mezey said in an interview “If you’re able to meter the product and charge a fair price for it, a very low price but a fair price, it gives the utility enough return on their investment that they can develop more lines and capacity.” Itron is now installing or has contracts to install such meters in Navi Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. Remember the article on Privatizing water?

Badly maintained sewage channels are choked and overflowing and have led to contaminated drinking water in Ganeshnagar, Mangalnagar, Belthikanagar, Gujarnagar, Jai Bhavaninagar and Duttnagar in Thergaon in Pune. So carelessness and lack of adequate equipment to maintain an is yet another toll on water.In Goa, leakage of pumping mains at the Opa water treatment plant, led to restricted water supply on March 17, to Ponda taluka and part of Tiswadi taluka, including all industrial establishments.

In other news, the Delhi Jal Board forged on relentlessly with its wish to privatize. It seems the guys who laid the pipes cannot control leakage, and it will take new and efficient guys who couldn't dream of creating a project of such magnitude to fix it. Having launched three projects as Private Public Partnerships in Delhi, there is now a conference on water privatization. In typical sarkari fashion, all criticism is welcome as long as the greed is not prevented.

India is a signatory to the UN Resolution of 2010, which recognizes 'Right to Water as a Human Right'. India also passed a National Water Policy in 2012 that encourage the role of private companies and minimize the role of government in supplying water. What happens when the poor
"water users" are unable to pay bills on time is left to our imaginations.


I have followed news on Maharashtra drought for days. It is most frustrating that there is little obvious drought relief. The need is water. What can we do?

I am just trying to brainstorm ways how we might be able to help.

  1. Reliable information from the ground indicates that there is a full fledged private water tanker business thriving on the needs of the people. Funds donated to drought relief organizations are often scammed - either as single delivery for multiple payments or other ways. The government tankers are usually missing, forcing people to purchase water.
  2. Rampant quantities of water are being extracted from the already depleted ground water and most of this water continues to go to industries buying in bulk while the usage that gets publicized is the far less quantity for human consumption in the name of drought relief.
  3. There is a need to figure out ways of forcing a halt on ground water extraction for any reasons beyond humanitarian relief.
  4. Donating things that will help people use less water. Disposable paper plates, such as could help save on dish washing water.
  5. Simple technologies like solar water sills that might help them get potable water out of waste water?
  6. Really trusted feminists and rights workers possibly offering residential housekeeping work to women who need to get out of the place - as an alternative to some of the worse desperate solutions? I don't know. Just thinking out loud.
  7. Collect contacts for various funds and people on the ground and verify and analyze them to see who is likely to bring most impact and promote those and encourage people to help there.

We could start a community on the new Desi Pirates site for people who are able to get involved in drought to see if we can come up with solutions. The drought is going nowhere. The worst of summer is still ahead of us. Are there ways we can help lighten the burden?

Do you have ideas? Comment below. What is the most genius idea you can come up with that can help people who have little water and even less chances of more water in the near future? How can you help them cope?

Do you live in a drought hit area of Maharashtra? Or are willing to travel there to help (on own expense) if some idea needs it? Volunteer in the comments so we can keep track of you.


The Indian state has managed to keep the devastating drought in the country out of the National consciousness. Just as it has kept quiet the massive destruction of water resources, falling water tables and sale of water and waterbodies to private players while people and their lands thirst.

What is the situation really?

314 villages of four districts in Odisha are drought-hit, Balasore (278), Bhadrak (4), Mayurbhanj (8) and Nuapada (24). Revenue minister S N Patro told the assembly that the declaration was made based on the crop-cutting experiment report received from collectors of these districts which expects 50% crop loss. Affected farmers of the areas would be eligible to get compensation as per the relief code.

31 out of 32 districts in Tamil Nadu are drought hit. Water channels in the Cauvery delta have dried up, and farmers have suffered massive crop losses, harvesting 10% to 30% of normal yields. Cattle farmers in Tamil Nadu are reeling under scarce and increasingly expensive feed and fodder following drought. A 50kg bag of cattle feed went from Rs.600/- to more than Rs.1000/- within a year. Profits are becoming unsustainable.

Maharashtra (the five year unbeaten champ of farmer suicides and ten year successful robbery of irrigation development) is in a dire condition. Maharashtra is facing the worst drought since 1972 with over 7000 villages in 123 talukas (including entire Marathwada) affected. 1,663 villages and 4,490 hamlets are completely dependent on tanker water supply by 2,136 tankers. Among the worst hit, 236 villages and 1,291 hamlets in Solapur depend on 279 tankers for drinking wate. 230 villages and 986 hamlets in Ahmednagar struggle with 270 tankers. People who can't afford tanker water search for water for long and even seek broken pipes.

Ill planned mass conversion from traditional crops to the perpetually water thirsty cash crops in a land with very little irrigation (less than a fifth of total agricultural land is irrigated), combined with a genocidally corrupt government stealing funds for irrigation has led to devastation on an enormous scale. India will see a 3-5% drop in foodgrain production due to this drought in Maharashtra.

An entire decade saw the addition of 0.1% of irrigated land. Abject neglect of protection of the water table, water harvesting, forest conservation compounds that with a rapidly depleting water table. There isn't even MNREGA work available without water. Many have not seen water come from a tap since November. Others in Jalna haven't seen water come from their tap for years.

There are appeals to donate sintex tanks to store water delivered by tankers. Presumably because the thirsty earth soaks it right out of wells used for the purpose.

Crops are gone, trees in orchards are dying devastating years of work. An alarmed state government is considering methods for monitoring distress migration out of drought affected areas. The state cabinet has decided to charge 60 crores to cooperative and private sugar factories toward providing drinking water to drought hit regions. An interesting state of affairs, is this an official admission of the outrageously exploitative inequality of water supply (more than half of Maharashtra's water supply goes to sugarcane, which is 6% of cultivated land) being compensated with an emergency one time charge rather than restoring water equality?

Sugarcane output is expected to drop below consumption in the coming year. This will get the attention of the sleeping middle class. New plantation is down by nearly 50% in both Maharashtra and Karnataka. Wineries have survived the drought with water brought in by tankers for irrigation in some cases. Alas, beer is not doing so well. Six out of eleven of Maharashtra's breweries being in Marathwada (worst hit) and sourcing water from the Jaikwadi dam (which has only 5% water left), they do not have enough water for production.

The Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (Bamu), Aurangabad, with a large number of students from the economically backward class has set up a student relief fund, which has so far received contributions of around Rs 46,000, said registrar Dhanraj Mane. You can support these students by sending your donations to the fund account number 60123671371, Bank of Maharashtra.

Rich temple trusts are reaching out to help people in this moment of need. The Siddhivinayak Temple is donating Rs 25 crore to the Chief Minister's relief fund. Pune's Dagdu Sheth Halwai Temple Trust is adopting a village in drought hit Sangli, while the Shirdi temple trust has decided to provide 5,000 water drums each of 1,000 litres in the drought hit villages.

Maharashtra Police is donating 15 crore out of salaries. "Constables and Sub-Inspectors will donate their one day salary. Assistant Police Inspectors and above level officers will contribute their two days' salary of the current month towards drought relief," a police officer told PTI.

The political opportunism continues unabashed. RR Patil declared donating a month's salary toward drought relief and suggested the cabinet do the same with Chavan and Ajit Pawar donating two month's salaries, which Chavan called a publicity stunt and shot down, because [pay attention] they were asking the center for a 2500 crore package and could ask for corporate donations. Two days later, Chavan did his media stunt "I appeal workers to wipe tears of drought-affected people ... We will have to reach out to the people by showing them the work we have done as promised in the manifesto.".

Congress minister Patangrao Kadam raised concern over depleting water levels and announced special funds to make water available for citizens living in areas hit by the drought. NCP minister Rajesh Tope demanded that farmers indulged in fruits farming too have been hit by the situation and demanded a special package of Rs 90 crore to bail out these farmers.

Raj Thackeray had harsh words for Sharad Pawar over the irrigation scam and its role in the drought (I think Ajit Pawar should be hanged, if anyone is asking). NCP workers pelted his car with stones. MNS workers purchased and burned a car as protest and got arrested for burning their own car and "pretending to protest" - whatever that means. Presumably that they should have burned public property to get away with protest without arrest. Protests that do not harm others get arrested in India - golden rule MNS forgot.

At a conference in Aurangabad, Sharad Pawar, accompanied by Ajit Pawar, had blithely defended the diversions of water to industries, and rejected the idea of more resilient cropping patterns because sugar was important. He promised all help, but didn't actually announce any saying that the center had already given 778 crore to the state to compensate previous crop losses. Yes, this is the agriculture minister speaking. Instead, he urged Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh to visit and criticised NCP MLA Madhukarrao Pichad for his reluctance to release water from the Nilwande dam.

In Pimpri Chinchwad, be blamed the drought on unplanned use of water. What water? There was no conservation and rain is the only source. Not even water harvesting. Let alone the irrigation.

The Bhujbals, on the other hand are in chance pe dance mode, having cancelled their electricity stealing, private funded Nashik Festival (MSEDCL found power stolen from street lights and demanded payment) in favor of comandeering land moving machinery and passing it off as the contribution of their foundation to making a watershed in the village of their rival. Still, not stealing electricity in times of severe shortage has to get some marks. After all, this is Maharashtra, ruled by a cartel. Plus, who knows, the machinery publicity may actually end with something useful? Also some bonus points for developing rival's village before own? Election gimmick you say? Ok.

In the meanwhile, the irrigation scam seems to have got off scot free. Ajit Pawar is happily rehabilitated. A decade of lost irrigation development, now discovered has led to no attempts to try and compensate at this late date at least. Cheaper, long term development like rainwater harvesting or other low expense initiatives with potential for transformation have been ignored - presumably because low cost offers no profit margins. The budget has no special provision for Maharashtra in spite of its devastating (and man-made) crisis. 1,800 crore for five drought affected states seems vastly inadequate for the kind of recovery necessary. Though how the state even has the audacity to wash hands off its own scam and blame the center for not allocating funds to compensate is a mystery.

We speak of raping, plundering invaders, looting colonists. Maharashtra government has managed the impossible. It has successfully raped, plundered and looted land and water itself.