Drought in Maharashtra
- Since the last 4 years, Maharashtra has had the highest drought-affected areas compared to other states.
- There have been 3 droughts since 2011, with the 2013 drought being the worst in 40 years.
- Experts claim that both manmade and global climate change factors have induced the recurring droughts.
- Marathwada and Vidarbha have been worst impacted by changing rainfall patterns and improper water management.
What is a drought?
According to the Indian Meteorological Department, a drought year is one in which the overall rainfall deficiency is more than 10% of the decade's average and more than 20% of the agricultural area is affected. It can be caused by reduced rainfall, drying up of surface waters or inadequate soil moisture leading to a drop in land productivity.
What makes Maharashtra so drought-prone?
- While the mean rainfall hasn't changed, the state is seeing more spells of heavy rainfall, where the aquifers don't get a chance to get recharged.
- Inadequate irrigation is the other biggest factor with 82% of the cultivated land in Maharashtra being rain-fed.
- Implementation projects have been notoriously slow with 225 projects under execution for more than 30 years.
- Water-guzzling sugarcane cultivation is widely practiced.
Maharashtra's water-guzzling sugarcane industry
Though only 4% of the cultivated land in Maharashtra is under sugarcane cultivation, it drains about 70% of the irrigation resources. About 79% of sugarcane is grown in drought-prone regions.
Fadnavis's drought policy to focus on building infrastructure
- As areas began to show signs of a 2nd consecutive drought, CM Fadnavis stressed that infrastructural investments would be more effective in mitigating drought than loan waivers.
- He stated that power and irrigation projects would be expedited including the ₹1000 crore power project and the ₹2500 crore 'Jalyukta Shivar' irrigation project.
- Affected farmers would have the provision to take up 100-day employment under MNREGA.
Second consecutive drought declared in Maharashtra
- A sub-committee declared drought in 14, 708 of the state's 43,000 villages after assessment of the Kharif season's crop yield.
- Almost 58% of the drought-hit districts were in the Marathwada region, where each of its 8522 villages faced drought-like conditions.
- After Marathwada, North Maharashtra was most affected.
- Maharashtra had received 710 mm of rainfall up till 13 October i.e. 61.3% of the normal rainfall.
State government announces ₹10,512 crore relief package
- The Fadnavis government announced a ₹10,512 crore package to help farmers affected by the drought.
- The package aims to help farmers directly, instead of through loan waivers through financial institutions.
- ₹7414 crore were allocated for crop insurance, especially for soy, cotton and paddy, for uninsured farmers.
- ₹750 crore were sanctioned to improve water management through the construction of wells and farm ponds.
Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan, the state's drought-free campaign
The 'Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan' a project to make the state drought-free by 2019. The project focusses on promoting micro-irrigation by creating water bodies and replenishing groundwater in rainfed areas, and has completed about 123, 000 projects successfully till now.
Centre grants drought-hit Maharashtra its biggest relief package
- The Centre approved the largest ever drought relief package of ₹3049 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund to the Maharashtra government.
- The Fadnavis government had submitted a proposal for a grant of ₹4500 crore to the government to compensate farmers for crop damage.
- The state government is also exploring other modes of raising revenues to tackle the drought crisis.
Drought hit farmers return awards in Maha
- Farmers from drought-hit Marathwada who were honoured by the state are returning their awards to protest the government's "incapability" to halt farmers' suicides.
- Several farmers returned their 'Sheti Nishtha' awards for best agricultural practices and some even returned the award money conferred upon them.
- Farmers have stated that they have done so in order to protest against the government's "insensitive approach" towards drought-hit farmers.