Water conflicts on the rise in Maharashtra, say experts
Mumbai: Issues of unequal distribution, lack of planning, political interference and growing demand for water were giving rise to disputes among the different regions of Maharashtra, according to experts on the subject.
Maharashtra received inadequate rainfall this monsoon and the government recently declared drought in 151 out of the 353 talukas in the state.
Citing lack of a state-level policy for water distribution and storage, Sanjay Lakhe Patil, president of the Marathwada Backlog Removal and Development Forum, blamed politicians.
"They have always invested heavily in their own areas.
Maximum dams have been constructed per hectare area, resulting in water imbalance and conflictsbetween different regions, talukas and districts," he said.
"Our water policy has always remained flawed. Needs of the region were never considered while sanctioningirrigation projects. Political leaders only thought about regions of their influence," Lakhe Patil claimed.
Giving an example, Lakhe Patil said the huge expenditure on Krishna Valley irrigation projects resulted in water disparity in western Maharashtra.
While Baramati, Kolhapur, parts of Satara, Sangli and Pune benefited, other areas like Sangola, Maan, parts of Satara, Sangli, Pune, Solapur and Atpadi remained without water, he said.
Lakhe Patil said the Tembhu-Takari irrigation project in Sangole in western Maharashtra, a perennially drought-prone area, is incomplete due to lack of funds.
Similarly, additional water storage capacity dams were built in the upper catchment areas of Jayakwadi Dam which, he said, went against irrigation rules.
"Additional storage capacity breaks the catchment water which is meant for Jayakwadi in Marathwada. The conflict started because Jayakwadi does not get enough water," he claimed. In 2016, the Bombay High Court passed a historical judgement regarding equitable distribution of water and held that water is owned by the state and not any particular district, region, person or personality, he said. The Mendhegiri Committe set up by the state government laid down a formula on distribution of water from the upper catchment area dams in Ahmednagar and Nashik districts as and when Jayakwadi Dam faced scarcity, he added.
The Vithalrao Vikhe Patil Sugar Factory and Mula Sugar Factory moved the SC against the release of water from these dams to Jayakwadi Dam but their plea was rejected by the apex court, said Lakhe Patil.