HotSpots H2O, December 10: Inequality Fuels Water Quarrels in India’s Second Most Populous State

Maharashtra, India. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Rundown

In late October, the government of Maharashtra, home to more than 114 million people, declared drought in 151 of the state’s 353 talukas (sub-districts), a move that allows the state to seek relief funding from India’s central government. Other talukas in Maharashtra criticized the declaration, asserting that they are also suffering water shortages. According to some estimates, up to 20,000 villages across 201 talukas are drought-stricken.

Experts partially blame government mismanagement for the water woes, arguing that dams and other infrastructure allow politicians to direct resources to favored constituencies. Faltering rainfall and a growing population have also put pressure on Maharashtra’s water. Many villages are experiencing drinking water shortages, with some requiring trucked-in water. Often, delivery trucks arrive only once per day, causing quarrels among residents over the limited supply.

“[Politicians] have always invested heavily in their own areas. Maximum dams have been constructed per hectare area, resulting in water imbalance and conflicts between different regions, talukas and districts.” –Sanjay Lakhe Patil, president of the Marathwada Backlog Removal and Development Forum, in reference to water-related disputes in Maharashtra. Lakhe Patil believes a state-level policy regulating water distribution and storage would help ease the state’s water issues.   

By the Numbers

151 Talukas in Maharashtra, India, that are experiencing drought, according to a state assessment in late October. Officials say 112 talukas are in the “severe” drought category, while 39 are experiencing “medium” drought conditions.

30 percent Current rain deficit in Maharashtra, India.

79.6 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) Size of a drought relief package that was requested from India’s central government on Friday, December 7.

On the Radar

Maharashtra’s drought relief package, submitted last week, is currently under review by India’s central government. State lawmakers are also assessing the Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act 2018, a draft proposal submitted in July. If ratified, the Act will penalize groundwater pollution and regulate the use of groundwater in the state.

Resources and Further Reading

As groundwater levels dip, state proposes Act to monitor use, punish misuse (The Indian Express)
Maharashtra CM seeks ₹7,962 cr. aid for drought relief (The Hindu)
Maharashtra declares drought in 151 talukas (Economic Times)
Maharashtra: Fodder & drinking water scarce, villagers say govt slow to respond (The Indian Express)  
Water conflicts on the rise in Maharashtra, say experts (The Week)

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