Maharashtra spends Rs.4.14 billion to check drought

Mumbai, Jan 23 (IANS) With a severe drought looming over parts of the state, Maharashtra has spent Rs.4.14 billion to combat the situation, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said Wednesday.

Chavan announced the amount has been spent towards making drinking water supply arrangements for people and cattle in the drought-hit areas of the state.

"As many as 1,539 tankers are supplying water to 1,155 villages and 3,709 hamlets hit by severe water scarcity," Chavan said after a meeting of the state cabinet here.

He added that 18,500 rural employment schemes have been initiated giving jobs to 1,64,000 labourers in the affected villages.

Besides, the government has already spent Rs.2.48 billion towards providing cattle shelters for nearly 70,000 cattle head in the drought-hit villages and hamlets.

Pointing to a grim scenario in the ensuing summer, Chavan said that an average of 44 percent water has been left in all its 2,468 dams and reservoirs across the state.

The coastal Konkan region has the maximum water storage (71 percent) followed by Amaravati and Pune (48 percent), Nagpur (41 percent), Nashik (36 percent) and the lowest in Marathwada (15 percent).

Chavan has ordered the concerned district collectors to make all efforts to supply drinking water to the people in the affected regions through tankers or even by bullock carts and initiate measures to enhance supply and conserve water before the next monsoon, due only after six months.

Earlier this week, union Agriculture Sharad Pawar assured the state that he would arrange to release a drought relief package of Rs.2,200 crore for the state soon.

He also said that "there would be no dearth of funds" to tackle the drought in Maharashtra.

The drought has also severely hit all development and infrastructure projects with the government diverting all available funds for tackling the water crisis.

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