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Part 3 - Chronicle of a drought foretold

Moribund rivers. Long walks to stagnant pools. The agonizing wait for tankers. The wasting away of hope. Water, where it is available, slakes not the thirst of Maharashtra’s deprived millions but of industries. Among the largest guzzlers of the state’s water resources are cement and thermal power plants while cash crops like sugarcane thrive on the scarce water even as fields of food crops are laid to waste. In the third of her ten-part series for Greenpeace India, Neelima Vallangi brings you a glimpse of Maharashtra’s worst drought in 40 years.

Many districts of Maharashtra have been facing continuous water scarcity for the past 2-3 years and this has manifested as severe drought this year, affecting millions across the state. Water for irrigation aside, there isn’t water to drink or meet daily needs. When even basic requirements aren’t met, how does it make sense to divert water for industrial use?
 

Vignettes of Maharashtra’s drought in images (photographs by Neelima Vallangi) 

Women wash clothes in what remains of Sina River in Sholapur district. Lakshmi Bai, who is seen standing in the polluted pool, says they have been facing water problems for far longer than she can remember. 

A young girl carries water from a tanker to her home in Ashti Taluka of Maharashtra’s Beed district. Thousands of villages in the drought-hit districts survive solely upon water provided by tankers.  

People carrying water containers or waiting for water tankers is a common sight across the drought-hit regions. These two young boys were going to get water from a nearby borewell in Sholapur district.

Tankers provide water to villages only once every few days. Farmers who have shifted to their fields to take care of cattle and plough the land do not get any water. In that case, they have to carry their drums to the nearest borewell to fill up water for survival.

After water, the next precious thing has to be water containers. All the houses had numerous drums and containers stacked up. Whenever the tankers arrive, the entire family gets to the task of filling up as many containers as possible, as the tankers do not come every day.

Tankers fill up the village wells with water, which villagers later draw, as seen here. 

In Nasik district, a farmer has taken a hefty loan to dig a well on his land. He hasn’t been able to harvest a profitable crop this year and he hopes water from the well will help him secure some profit this year.

Severe water scarcity is forcing people to try and acquire water by any means possible. Seen here is an illegally dug pond lined with plastic across Maan River in Sholapur district to draw water whenever the gates of the dam upstream are opened.

Villagers wait their turn to fill water in Sinnar Taluka of Nasik district. Geographically an arid area with a history of water scarcity, the current drought has made the situation far worse in these regions.

Districts change but the wait for water continues. Seen here are women waiting to fill water from a borewell after power supply was restored in Mithsagar village of Nasik district. The government-provided pipeline supplies water for a measly 10 minutes, which they say isn’t sufficient at all. 

 

Day after day, filling containers, waiting for tankers, drawing water from wells and repeating the whole process again is the only solution to deal with the water crisis for many.


Moved to action? Support Greenpeace India's effort to support the farmers' movement to get back the water that has been allocated to industries in the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra.

PREVIOUS:
Part 2 - Life changes when water dries up | NEXT: Part 4 - Cattle camps – the last resort

ABOUT THE WRITER

Neelima VallangiNeelima Vallangi is a writer and photographer from Bangalore. She has been travelling in India for the past few years unearthing little-known places of the country. She travelled with Greenpeace through the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra to find out the reality of the situation in the region. Follow her writing on her website and on Facebook

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