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Issue No.: 550 | April 2013
 

Water Thievery - Cause of Droughts in Maharashtra

Sharad Joshi
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The most serious issue before the State of Maharashtra today is the drought in large parts of the State. This month's editorial is therefore on, what is undeniably, a man-made disaster. The man who can speak with authority on agriculture and rural India, more than any other person, is Sharad Joshi the founder of the Shetkari Sanghatana. We have therefore, the privilege of carrying this month's editorial 'Between Ourselves' written by him. Incidentally, for readers who receive the hard copy and who may also chance upon this soft copy, Sharad Joshi’s blistering comments on "Water Thievery” in Maharashtra appears on the back cover of Freedom First (No.550 March 2013). Editor



Famines and droughts have a long history in Maharashtra . Environmentalists have been predicting wars over water for decades. Maharashtra is, for various reasons, ideally situated for the commencement of these wars.


Maharashtra is shaped like a triangle with the Western Ghats as its base and Vidarbha as its apex. Most of the rainfall happens in the Western Ghats. The British constructed a large number of dams and river-valley projects to turn Maharashtra into a food granary of the nation. Unfortunately, the reservoirs of the dams remained empty when agricultural crops needed water and filled up when nobody wanted water. Looking for crops that demanded perennial supply of water, the bounty was picked up by sugarcane growers. This resulted in Maharashtra becoming main producer of sugar rather than the granary of the nation. The barrages are on top of the Sahyadri range while the drought-affected areas are more on the eastern and northern sides. The distance has to be covered by long concrete walled canals. This provides an ideal situation for the rain-starved farmers to lift water from the canals in rainy days and fill up their small tanks and wells. This is tolerated because of the strong political lobbies for political considerations. 


Sugarcane is a water-guzzling crop. Few sugar factories are equipped to recover 90% of the water contained in the sugarcane.


In all the countries of the world, sugarcane is a rain-fed crop. In India alone, it is exclusively canal-irrigated. The situation in Marathwada is largely self-inflicted. Latur district alone has some 12 sugar factories. The districts of Osmanabad and Beed do not lag much behind. Regions of Jat, Atpadi, Jalna, Paranda, Osmanabad are literally surviving g on whatever water is supplied in tankers.


If political and petty thievery and got of Western Ghats waters can be effectively stopped and effectiv measures taken to reclaim water from the sugarcane in the factories the drought situation can be easily met.


Famines have a largely economic remedy. If the farmers could get remunerative prices during the years of good crops, they will not be forced to look for EGS camps for themselves and fodder camps for their cattle. The city people have become aware of the basic issues involved only now when hoards of hungry and thirsty people have started flowing into cities like Pune and Mumbai where they expect to get employment and a cupful of water.


 

SHARAD JOSHI

 

 
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Other Articles in this Issue

Editorial

Water Thievery - Cause of Droughts in Maharashtra

Sharad Joshi
 

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