While some parts of Vidarbha including Nagpur and north Maharashtra received a bout of pre-monsoon showers, the water situation in the State continues to be grim as ever in Marathwada where only 2.9% of the cumulative water stock is remaining in dams and reservoirs.
Weather forecasts predicting a delayed monsoon will aggravate water woes in all parts of the State, particularly the arid regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha.
On Sunday, State cabinet Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Chandrakant Patil announced that the State government would keep fodder camps running till the end of June in a bid to alleviate agrarian distress.
“The situation is very grim indeed. With rain forecasts predicting a delay in the arrival of monsoon in the State by another three weeks, citizens as well as officials face a daunting challenge,” Mr. Patil said, speaking after reviewing the situation in Aurangabad district.
He further said that while the government was providing funds for establishing fodder camps for smaller livestock like sheep and goats, local organisations must come forward for their upkeep.
“There is no shortage of funds… villages and areas in the grip of acute water scarcity need only to ask for more tankers and they will be provided,” Mr. Patil said.
Yet, even as the BJP Minister doled out assurances, a video clip showing desperate women and children running after a water tanker used for road-levelling in Aurangabad’s Phulambri Taluk went viral.
The clip is emblematic of the gravity of the crisis facing Marathwada’s residents as they struggle in their daily quest for water.
In the clip, the parched residents of Phulambri are seen putting their plastic water cans to the taps at the rear of the tanker, in a frenzied bid to secure a few drops of water as the giant vehicle lumbers ahead.
On Saturday, six women from the same Taluk sustained injuries after they fell into a near-depleted well while trying to dredge for potable water.
Currently, the 35 lakh populace in the eight districts that comprise Marathwada are entirely dependent on the 2,200-odd tankers that ply in the parched region every day.
In Beed district, the scarcity becomes graver with each passing day as 99 of the 144 water projects are running completely dry.
Western Maharashtra, too, is feeling the heavy hand of drought with soaring temperatures bedevilling Pune city.
The city reeled under a heat-wave last week, recording its highest figure of 43 degrees in 50 years. While temperatures have since dipped slightly, the district has received a meagre 1.7 mm of pre-monsoon showers this year.
Several areas of the city are hit by water scarcity as the water reserves of Pune’s four major dams plummet to 15% of their total capacity of 29TMC.
Officials at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) expressed concern that if the monsoon was delayed over Kerala, then its arrival over Maharashtra would be protracted as well, entering the State well after June 10.
According to private weather forecaster Skymet, the monsoon would not arrive over the State before June 15.