Water crisis: Govt announces Rs 2,625-cr relief package

Starting at a serious water crisis in 2012-13 coming on the back of a drought-like situation persisting in some parts of the state, the state government has announced a Rs 2,625-crore package for water supply, irrigation schemes and water conservation programmes.

While Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam made the announcement of the package to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, officials added that if the monsoon deficit continues, one third of Maharashtra could be fighting acute water scarcity next compared to one sixth of the state in the past summer.

Kadam announced the relief package following a heated discussion among legislators on why the politically powerful parts of Western Maharashtra had cornered the lion's share of drought-relief aid until now. "The government is prepared and will take decisive measures to tackle the continuing water scarcity," the minister said.

More than 7,500 villages in the state were declared drought-hit in the past summer even though the total rainfall in the state during 2011 was 102.3 per cent of the normal. Until now, the rainfall received in 2012 has been around 79 per cent of the normal. "If, as per the Met department's predictions, the monsoon strengthens, the situation will improve. If the monsoon continues to disappoint, water scarcity across the state will increase," said an official.

Preliminary estimates by the government indicate that 15,000 villages in 100 talukas may have to be brought under relief schemes, officials admit.

Under the Rs 2,625-crore relief package, the government expects to spend Rs 100 crore on the Mahatma Gandhi Jal Abhiyaan for water supply, Rs 50 crore on fodder cultivation, Rs 100 crore on reviving farm ponds, Rs 300 crore on irrigation schemes for Vidarbha, Rs 600 crore on small irrigation schemes, Rs 75 crore on lining farm ponds, Rs 500 crore on water conservation projects to be built under the employment guarantee scheme, Rs 300 crore on fertiliser and seeds for the Rabi crop, Rs 500 crore for watershed management projects and Rs 100 crore on credit schemes.

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