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Posted at: Apr 28, 2016, 1:54 AM; last updated: Apr 28, 2016, 4:42 PM (IST)

Water trains bring scant relief here

Ground report from Marathwada region of Maharashtra, parched by back-to-back drought years

Heatwave toll surges past 4,000 in 4 years

  • 4,204 people
  • have died due to heatwave since 2013 till March 2016, Union Minister YS Chowdary said in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday
  • 87 peopledied till March this year, Chowdary said in a written response to a question in Parliament
  • 56 deaths have been seen in Telangana, followed by 19 in Odisha. Andhra Pradesh has recorded eight deaths, while Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have one casualty each due to heatwave
  • 1,433 peopledied in 2013, of whom 1,393 were from undivided Andhra Pradesh
  • 549 diedin 2014, but the toll again rose to 2,135 in 2015
  • 1,422 deathsin 2015 were recorded in Andhra Pradesh, followed by 584 in Telangana
Water trains bring scant relief here
pipe dream Residents hold plastic hoses as they fetch water from a government-run water tanker in Masurdi village of Latur. reuters

Latur, April 27

Haribhau Kamble, an unemployed labourer in India’s richest state of Maharashtra, is forced to queue for hours in scorching heat to fetch water even as the government puts on trains to ship water to the region parched by back-to-back drought years.

Like Kamble, millions of Indians have been hung out to dry in the state with the worst drought in four decades ravaging crops, killing livestock, emptying reservoirs and slowing hydroelectric power output. Mismanagement of water resources, with powerful politicians pushing for bigger supplies to industries, have made the situation worse, experts say.

“The government says it is bringing water by train every day, but we are getting water once a week,” Kamble said, after standing in line for three hours to fill two pitchers at a tap in Latur district, 500 km southeast of Mumbai in drought-stricken Marathwada region. Locals had been hoping a 50-wagon daily water train would ease shortages, but they were disappointed as the 25 lakh litres carried by the train and ferried by tankers to villages was not enough to meet the needs of Latur’s five lakh people and Marathwada’s 1.9 crore.

Marathwada, home to many sugar mills in Maharashtra, is one of the several regions in India that received below-average June-September rains in 2015. New Delhi estimates that overall 33 crore, a quarter of the country’s population, are currently affected by drought.

Water is set to get scarcer over the next two months as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius, drying up Marathwada reservoirs that are now just 3 per cent full.

“That Maharashtra would face a water crisis was clear when monsoons failed, yet the state took no action to curb supplies to water-guzzling industries like beer and sugar,” said Parineeta Dandekar, associate coordinator at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

“There are limits on how much water the government can supply by train. Had it reserved water sources for drinking last year, the situation would have been much better now.” The need of the hour is cost-effective steps such as enforcing restrictions on water use and ensuring canals do not leak. — Reuters

Centre puts onus on states for drought 

New Delhi: Under attack over dealing with the drought in the country, the Centre on Wednesday put the responsibility for addressing the situation on states. Insisting that the government was doing its bit to provide relief to those affected, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said: "The role of Centre and state is different. It is clearly defined in the manual for drought management and we cannot change it overnight. The Centre's role is to monitor and the state's role is to provide assistance and help the affected people at ground level."— tns

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