Monsoon has arrived with a bang in the parched Marathwada region. Though it has been just 10 days since rainfall started in many parts of Marathwada, it has brought relief and joy among the people there. Farmers have begun sowing seeds in the hope of a good rainfall in July. Throughout June, the region has received 116.6 mm rainfall. Many small reservoirs and water bodies have started filling up. Water conservation work done through the Jalayukta Shivar Yojana and other schemes has started showing effect, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. Though the large water reservoirs and dams and rivers are yet to show any significant rise in water levels, experts have predicted that heavy rainfall in the region will help replenish water levels there too.
In places like Latur, which is one of the worst-hit by drought, people have been taking up rainwater harvesting at a large level. The administration has also encouraged large scale afforestation. Latur alone is likely to plant nearly 20 lakh trees in the next fortnight, Latur Collector Pandurang Pole told The Sunday Guardian. Saplings have already been ordered from the nurseries in neighbouring states for it, he said.
According to data released by Maharashtra government’s agriculture department, the region had received almost the same amount of rainfall in the entire month of June last year. This year, the past 10 days of June have provided quite some relief. While Jalna had 111.1 mm rainfall in the entire month, Beed had 102.4 mm rainfall. The figures for the rest of the places in Marathwada are: Latur 116.2 mm; Osmanabad 130.6 mm; Nanded 131.8 mm; Parbhani 101.3 mm and Hingoli 134.8 mm.
The Indian Meteorological Department has already predicted heavy rainfall for Marathwada and Vidarbha regions this year. Monsoon has arrived in many parts of Maharashtra by now. Though the rainfall has not been sufficient till date, IMD officials expect the rains to pick up after July. “The typical pattern is that Marathwada receives most of its rainfall in the months of July and September,” an official of the revenue department told The Sunday Guardian.
Over the past three years of continuous, severe drought, many social organisations, big corporates, private and governmental organisations have come ahead along with local individuals to contribute to small water conservation projects. Work worth crores of rupees has been done through public participation in the drought-prone places of Marathwada. However, it had yielded no result till a few days ago due to a lack of rain.
“As we progress into the monsoons, and as the water stands, there will be a real estimate of the kind of impact the water conservation work has had. Right now, it rains and the water flows away. This flowing water is not of much use to understand how these small water bodies will get replenished. Only when the water stands still and starts percolating into the ground, will we understand the impact of the work. Currently, we can certainly see small water bodies like wells, small lakes getting filled up due to these rains,” said Dr Shashi Chaudhari, a dentist from Latur who has participated in several small and large projects under the aegis of Art of Living Foundation.
“For the past three years, the two rivers were completely dry. Laturkars made a lot of effort on cleaning, widening of the riverbeds of Tavarja and Terna. Today, after two years of hard work, Terna has filled up by the first spell of rains itself. Also, it rained heavily in the 20 km catchment area of Tavarja river which has started flowing now,” Latur Collector Pole told The Sunday Guardian on phone.
The Manjra river and the dam on it are the major sources of water supply to Latur, Beed and other places in Marathwada. However, the rainfall in the past 10 days has not shown any major impact on its water level. “The work of desilting the two barrages on Manjra river—Sai and Nagzari—is complete. An over 18 km patch has been cleared. But the rainfall in the area has not been sufficient to show any results on the water levels,” Pole said.
In Beed, rainfall has already brought hope among the people. “In over 1,000 structures, water storage has gone up substantially due to these rains in the past 10 days. The wells, cement nullahs, bunds, small structures are seeing good results. In Ambajogai, the situation was so grim till a few days ago that we were worried about the water supply. But in the past 10 days, the rainfall has been so good that it can now sustain for two months as the small dam has filled up. But two big dams, 19 medium tanks and 100 small projects are still without any considerable water in them. We hope the situation improves with the monsoon’s onset,” Beed Collector Navalkishore Ram told The Sunday Guardian.
Latur is one of the worst sufferers of drought in Marathwada. The administration has so far undertaken works under Jalayukta Shivar Yojana in 378 of 943 villages. Pole said: “The administration has undertaken works like desilting of riverbeds and lakes, building small cement bunds, increasing capacity of water bodies. These works have been done through the people’s participation, utilisation of funds from the MLA and MP funds.”
In south Latur, good rainfall for the past 10 days has helped fill up small water bodies speedily. It has also encouraged the farmers to start sowing. The picture in north Latur is not that optimistic currently. Monsoon arrived late there. So the farmers are still waiting for proper rains to start sowing,” he said.