Drought of 2016: India

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The drought of 2016: the distance and location of the source of drinking water from the consumer’s house ; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, April 22, 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



June, 3rd week: Monsoon delayed, just 15% water left

The Times of India, Jun 18 2016

Total water storage capacity of 91 major reservoirs, area-wise and kharif sown area as on June 17, 2016, crop-wise; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 18, 2016

Vishwa Mohan

Just 15% water left in 91 major reservoirs  The slow progress of the monsoon has meant water storage in 91major reservoirs has dipped further and overall availability stands at just 15% of capacity.This has not only hit initial kharif sowing but also availability of drinking water.

Though the area under kharif will increase once rains sweep the entire coun try over the next few weeks, the current water shortages have shrunk the total area under rice, pulses, oilseeds and other crops, except sugarcane. As on Friday , the sown area under kharif crops was 10% less than that in the same period last year.

Water levels in key reservoirs dipped from 26.81 billion cubic metres on May 26, to 23.78 BCM on June 16. With water levels in key reservoirs already at worrying levels, the situation could turn desperate if the monsoon fails to pick up in the next four-five days.

Reservoirs in south India are the worst affected. Central Water Commission figures, released on Friday , show that water availability in 31 reservoirs in the south was 4.86 BCM on June 16 -just 9% of capacity .

Comparatively , the situation in the north is much better with water levels in the region's six major reservoirs at 23% of capacity .

Of the 91big reservoirs monitored by the CWC, 27 are in the west, 15 in east and 12 in central India.

Besides supplying drinking water to many cities and providing water for irrigation, 37 of these 91 reservoirs have hydropower facilities with installed capacities of more than 60 MW.

The total kharif sown area stood at 84.21 lakh hectares on Friday as compared to 93.63 lakh hectares at the same point last year. Surprisingly , the sown area under water-guzzling sugarcane as on June 17 was higher than its acreage last year -signalling farmers' preference for the crop that invariably gives better returns than pulses and oilseeds.In fact, sugarcane has already occupied more than 50% of the total sown area.

The NDA government's move to substantially reduce the dues of sugarcane farmers in the past two years also seems to have played a role in tilting the cropping pattern in favour of sugarcane. About 87% of the dues have already been paid for the 2015-16 season, indicating how the crop remains remunerative despite delays in payment by sugar units.

The decline in water storage in the big reservoirs can be attributed to two consecutive drought years.

The country had recorded monsoon deficits of 12% and 14% in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Though it is normal for water bodies to deplete sharply in the pre-monsoon summer months, the CWC has been keeping a close watch on the storage in these reservoirs so that the available water can be distributed properly till the arrival of monsoon.

Most of these reservoirs get water during the June-September southwest monsoon, while reservoirs in Tamil Nadu get water during the October-December northeast monsoon.Reservoirs being monitored by CWC include Gobind Sagar (Bhakra) and Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh, Thein in Punjab, Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan, Panchet Hill in Jharkhand, Hirakud and upper Indravati in Odisha, Ukai and Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat, Koyana and upper Vaitarna in Maharashtra etc.

12,000 springs dry up in Uttarakhand

The Times of India, June 23, 2016

12,000 springs dry up in Uttarakhand

A staggering 12,000 or one-fifth of Uttarakhand's natural springs have dried up, and several organisations have come together to draw up a proposal for their revival. To be forwarded to the Centre via the state government, the proposal -drafted at a workshop held by the Dehradun-based NGO People's Science Institute -seeks a Rs 500 crore grant for the project, which is estimated to take eight years. “The initiative will percolate to local communities, which will maintain the revived springs,“ Harshvardhan Dhawan of Arghyam Foundation said.

The situation in mid-April 2016

The Times of India, Apr 22, 2016

Water level in 91 major reservoirs dips to 22%

Only two states, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura, have reported better storage vis-a-vis last year for the same period.

The water level in 91 major reservoirs across the country has dipped to 22 per cent of their total capacity, government said on Friday. According to Union Water Resources Ministry, 34.082 billion cubic metre (BCM) of water was available in these reservoirs for the week ending April 21. Their total capacity is 157.799 BCM. The levels are 35 per cent less than the stock available in the corresponding period last year and 24 per cent less than the 10-year average storage levels for the same period, the Ministry said.

Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have reported lower levels of water in major reservoirs compared to 2015.

Only two states, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura, have reported better storage vis-a-vis last year for the same period. West Bengal has reported same storage.

For the week ending on April 13, the stock was at 35.839 BCM or 23 per cent of their total storage capacity.

The estimated water storage capacity of all reservoirs in the country is 253.88 BCM. 37 major reservoirs have hydropower benefit with installed capacity of more than 60 MW.

Water trains

To Bundelkhand

The Times of India, May 06 2016

Water train carries politics to parched Bundelkhand  Slamming the brakes on a water train sent by the Centre for the parched Bundelkhand, the UP government on Thursday said the crisis was “not as serious“ as in Maharashtra's Latur.BJP accused the Samajwadi Party government of “gross insensitivity“ and asked it to make use of the train to ferry water to the parched region.

The state government, however, requested the Centre to provide it 10,000 tankers for distributing water in the region. “UPCM @yadavakhilesh requests GOI for 10,000 road tankers to distribute water in Bundelkhand from available water resources around the region (sic),“ the CM's office tweeted.

Bundelkhand is facing a crippling shortage of water and with an eye on the 2017 assembly polls, political parties are trying to take credit for resolving the crisis.

SP, which is in office, has accused local BJP members of asking the Centre for a water train to snatch credit from the Akhilesh Yadav government, which has distributed relief packets in the region.

A train with 10 empty wag ons has reached Jhansi. “The wagons are ready to be filled with water from a reservoir for dispatch to the destination as and when needed,“ commercial officer, Jhansi railway division, Girish Kanchan said.

Reacting to UP government's refusal to accept the water train, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said the Centre doesn't want to do any politics on the issue and all possible help would be provided to the state government.

BJP accused the SP government of “gross insensitivity“ after the alleged starvation death of a Dalit in Bundelkhand. It asked the SP govern ment to focus on providing relief to drought-hit farmers instead of spending money on publicity . “The Centre has helped the drought-hit people by sending a water train and the state should capitalise on it rather than making it a political issue,“ BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said.


The Times of India, May 3, 2016

Priyanka Kakodkar

Only 2% of water left in Marathwada dams

There is only 2% of water left in dams in drought-struck Marathwada, with a month and a half to go before the monsoon sets in.

Eight of the region's 11 major dams are at dead storage level. Water from the dams has to be li from the dams has to be lifted as it cannot flow out. The Manjara and Lower Terna dams have run totally dry . In 2015, at this time, the water level in those dams was higher at 10%. This is the fourth year of drought in Marathwada in the last five years. The state government says there is enough water to last the region till monsoon. “We are hopeful the monsoon will come earlier,“ said state water resources mini ster Girish Mahajan.

Rainfall across the state has been deficient since 2014.Dams across the state have only 16% water left, compared to 27% at this time in 2015.Dam water levels in north and western Maharashtra have halved compared to last year. Water levels in western Maharashtra's dams have dropped from 32% to 16% at this time in 2015.

Activist Kishor Tiwari, who is heading a task force for farmers, said the government should enforce a cutback in cultivation of waterguzzling sugarcane in favour of more sustainable crops.

Wells dry up first time in 100 years

The Times of India, Apr 24 2016

Syed Rizwanullah

Wells dry up first time in 100 years

A well in drought-ridden Marathwada, Photo by Narayan Wale; Picture courtesy: The Times of India, Apr 24 2016

Marathwada has seen terrible droughts before. But never before did the two oldest wells in Wadval Nagnath village in Chakur taluka of Latur dry up. These wells have been around over 100 years. About eighty other wells -both old and new -situated in and around the Wadval-Nagnath too have almost dried up. Few borewells are functioning. “The owners have decided not to use the water for their crops but have opened the wells to the public, says sarpanch Shilpatai Rajkumar Bendke.

The water in the well owned by Annasaheb and Ambadas Patil has turned so muddy that it can't be used for drinking. Raosaheb Bhanje's well is dilapidated but the water is potable. “But it's risky. Sometimes people slip and fall in. But, we manage to rescue them, says Bendke. The village gets two tankers a day to service its population of about 10,000. “We store the water and then it pump it into the overhead tank. It is supplied to the village for a few minutes. But it isn't enough, she says.



The Times of India, Apr 24 2016

Wells run dry in Cauvery's birthplace


The irony can't be harsher. Talakaveri, the birthplace of the Cauvery river, has no drinking water left.

The open well in the village has dried up, causing hardship to pilgrims and residents alike. If the situation continues, residents say , priests at the temple will be forced to fetch water from the holy pond ­ something done only during Teerthodbhava, an annual occurrence in which the goddess Cauvery is believed to emerge from a tiny pond in the form of a holy spring.

Kodagu district, known for its cool weather, has this year recorded a high of 30 degrees.

Efforts by the Kodagu zilla panchayat to bring water from the Kanike, a tributary of the Cauvery , has not yielded results due to “improper supervision“.

Diverting water

SC does not ban diversion to liquor industry

The Times of India, May 25 2016

SC says no to water ban for Maha liquor units

The Supreme Court refused to direct the Maharashtra government to cut water supply to liquor manufacturing units till drinking water crisis was resolved in the drought-hit state.

A bench of Justices Prafulla C Pant and D Y Chandrachud said it was for the state and the district administration to take a decision on water supply after examining the prevailing conditions in the drought-hit areas. It said the court should refrain from interfering in such matters.

The apex court, which had approved shifting of IPL matches out of Maharashtra to limit use of water in the state, said the matter was being considered by the Bombay high court, and asked the petitioner to raise grievances before the HC.

In April, the HC had directed the Maharashtra government to cut water supply to distilleries and breweries in Aurangabad by 60% from May 10 to June 27. It had also asked the state to cut supply to other industrial units in Marathwada by 25%.

Not satisfied by the HC order, social workerSanjay Kale had approached the SC seeking direction to completely cut water supply to liquor manufacturing units.

25% of population hit

The Times of India, Apr 20 2016

Number of districts suffering drought and population affected, state-wise; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Apr 20 2016

Over 25% of India's population hit by drought, Centre tells SC

AmitAnand Choudhary

A staggering 33 crore people, or more than a quarter of the country's population, are in the grip of drought and consequently fa PARCHED LAND: P 11 & 22 ce drinking water shortage and agricultural distress, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday . The government said it was releasing money to the affected states from its disaster fund to tackle the crisis. Additional solicitor general P S Narasimha, who submitted the data before the court on the basis of figures furnished by 10 states, said Rs 7,321 crore was released on Monday under MGNREGS in addition to Rs 12,230 crore disbursed earlier this month. He said more than 21 lakh households were granted more than 100 days of employment under the rural job scheme in these states.

But the number of people hit by the drought could be higher as Bihar and Haryana haven't declared such a condition despite shortfall in rain.The report stating that 2.55 lakh villages living in 254 districts are drought-affected was placed before Justices Madan B Lokur and N V Ramana.

Interestingly , the Centre did not mention the crisis prevailing in Gujarat despite the state itself admitting on the last date of hearing that more than 637 villages were facing severe water shortage. Taking exception to the decision to not include Gujarat among drought-hit states, the Supreme Court bench asked “why special treatment was being given to the state“. The additional solicitor general replied that this was a mistake and “there is nothing behind the scene and the Gujarat figure would also be placed before the court“.

Drought conditions have forced governments to undertake emergency measures like running water trains in Maharashtra, while a public outcry over “wasting“ water led to IPL matches being moved out of Maharashtra on court orders. Politics has heated up, too, over incidents like use of water to settle dust at a heli pad prepared for a VIP inspection in Karnataka.

ASG P S Narasimha clarified that figures of drought-hit people have been furnished by states and might be somewhat `misleading' as they had perhaps included entire populations in a drought-hit district.

As per figures placed before the SC, 254 out of total 678 districts in the country are under the spell of drought; the worst-hit state is UP where 9.88 crore people are affected due to rain deficit in 50 districts.

Narasimha told the bench that the government is taking all effective steps to handle the crisis and more funds are being released. He said drought is covered as a natural disaster under the Disaster Management Act and money is being released from the national and state disaster funds.

June 12: The drought ends in Latur, Marathwada

The Times of India, Jun 12 2016

Maharashtra's drought hit Latur district has received 65.1mm rain since June 1 -nearly 121.9% of normal rainfall, report Prasad Joshi and Syed Rizwanullah. Last year, it had received just 52.3% in the same month. Smart showers over the past few days have helped rejuvenate rivers in the district and the Terna river barrage.

Besides Latur, three other worst drought-hit districts of Marathwada -Osmanabad, Beed and Nanded -have got more rain this month compared to last June.

See also

Droughts: India

India Meteorological Department

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