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‘Water For All’ in Maharashtra – Promises and Delivery

Water Maharashtra Promises Delivery

This article is part of a series on Maharashtra – Promises and Delivery

Part 1: Infrastructure

Part 2: ‘Water For All’ 

Part 3: Urban Development

Part 4: Economy and Employment

Part 5: Farmers

Part 6: Education

Part 7: Health For All

Part 8: Women Empowerment & Safety

Part 9: Cultural Heritage

In the second part of the series, we now deal with the set of promises under the heading “Water For All”. Maharashtra being an arid state, water is a major issue that has been at the centerstage of all the debate. Crores have been spent on water management but to no avail. We group similar promises under one heading and present to you a report on what all has been done.

Promise

  • A per the recommendation by the Third Water Commission, water available in every river basin will be tapped through river basin- specific irrigation schemes.
  • There will be strict implementation of recommendations of water-usage commissions and acts.
  • Water conservation is the only answer to the growing demand of water in the state. A New Water Conservation and Irrigation Policy will be framed keeping this in mind.

River basin specific projects have been taken up depending on the topography and water availability.

Excess water always flows into the west flowing rivers of Konkan into the seas. Maharashtra has decided to tap water of Konkan rivers up to 360 TMC  and divert it to Marathwada.

Some basins need river interlinking for better diversion of excess water into basins with water scarcity. Two important river interlinking projects, Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi-Narmada, would be developed. Earlier, the MoU was with Gujarat. But Maharashtra opted out and would develop it on its own.

An ambitious plan of creating a water grid in Marathwada has been proposed and bids have been received for the Rs 16000 crore program.

Moreover, Maharashtra State Water Policy 2019 has been formulated to ensure better management of water resources. The policy includes provisions of taming floods, judicious usage of water for industries, agriculture and household consumption, etc.

Promise– Completion of all incomplete irrigation schemes all over the state will be done on war footing.

Statistics show that the pace of completion has been fast between 2014-19. Comparing the completed and ongoing projects from 2009, 2014 and 2019, we see that the irrigation projects have been indeed paced up. The projects include major and minor irrigation projects.

Thus, there has been a sense of urgency in completing the pending irrigation projects in Maharashtra.

But mere completion of irrigation projects is not enough. The irrigation potential that is created has to be effectively utilized. Thus, we need to compare irrigation potential created (in lakh hectares) and irrigation potential actually utilized (in lakh hectares)

We can clearly see that earlier government not only created lesser irrigation potential, but the actual utilization percentage was also quite less.

Moreover, there was always shortage of funds for completing the irrigation projects. The Narendra Modi led central government ensured that money isn’t a concern. A large sum of 1.15 lakh crores was announced under Baliraja Sanjeevani Yojana for completing the pending irrigation projects.

Promise

  • We will encourage farmers to grow crops according to availability of water and water will be distributed equitably.
  • All water-guzzling crops will be brought under drip-irrigation in the next 5 years. Drip-irrigation subsidy scheme will be completely revamped. 95% subsidy will be introduced for implementation of drip-irrigation system.

Change of cropping pattern was a much-needed measure given that sugarcane uses three times more water than any other crop. Thus, focus has been given on development of horticulture industry as fruits and vegetables have been taken out of the ambit of APMC regulations.

Moreover, Maharashtra has announced the Mukhyamantri Shashwat Krishi Sinchan Yojana for Rs 450 crores which offers 50% subsidy on all the measures that will promote sustainable farming and More Crop Per Drop.

To promote drip irrigation, the government has come up with a scheme for subsidizing loans by farmers for drip irrigation. Rs 85000 crores have been earmarked for it. The farmers will get loans for setting up drip irrigation facilities at mere 5.5% interest rates. The aim is to bring another 7.8 lakh hectares of sugarcane cultivation under drip irrigation that will make sugarcane cultivation half as water intensive.

Promise– There will be a policy to ensure that urban waste water will be treated and clean water will be made available for agriculture.

Multiple MoU were signed with Energy Efficiency Services Ltd and NEERI to setup waste water treatment plants. 71 city corporations are expected to setup such facilities by 2020 which would treat 6800 million liters of water and provide it for industries and agriculture.

Promise– Irrigation scams in the last 10 years will be investigated. Stringent action will be taken according to law against the politicians and government employees involved in the scams.

While some big names have been named in the chargesheet of the irrigation scam, the final prosecution is pending. Thus, this promise has not been totally fulfilled.

Promise

  • A special campaign will be conducted for restoring old village-ponds, water streams, public wells and other water bodies.
  • Existing check-dams and farm-ponds will be revived and many new-ones will be constructed.
  • Farm ponds will be constructed on a massive scale.
  • Various water conservation schemes over the past ten years will be analyzed and restructured to identify and plug the loopholes.

All these aims broadly come under the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyaan and other schemes like Magel Tyala Shet-Tala.

Jalyukta Shivar has been a revolution. It includes de-siltation of old ponds, river channel expansion, recharge of aquifers and construction of farm ponds.

  • 22,590 villages have been covered till date
  • More than 6 lakh works have been completed by 2019
  • More than 1.37 lakh farm ponds have been created from 2014-2018
  • About 26.90 lakh TCM of water capacity has been created
  • Irrigation capacity created is 38.95 lakh hectares
  • People themselves have voluntarily contributed more than 638 crores towards this scheme

Promise– To replenish the water table, rainwater harvesting will be made mandatory in urban and rural areas. Special tax incentives will be offered to encourage the implementation of these policies.

The success has been partial with some cities adopting it, some not and some adopting it with terms and conditions. Mumbai has not been able to make up its mind while Pune has seen limited response to tax rebates being offered. Nashik has made it compulsory while Nagpur has made it compulsory for plots more than 1500 square meter or more.

No such announcement of compulsory rainwater harvesting in rural areas has been made.

Promise– Effective assessment and implementation of water supply schemes in rural, semi-urban and urban areas will be undertaken. An independent authority will be established for timely maintenance and repair of the water supply system. The Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran will be revamped.

A comprehensive rural water supply scheme Mukhyamantri Rural Drinking Water Programme has been launched wherein the Zilla Parishads will ensure proper water supply.

Also, experiments to introduce PPP model in water supply have been done in Nagpur.

While there has been no revamp of Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran, its role has been expanded as technical advisor, regulatory authority and executive authority for water supply schemes mentioned above.

Promise Clean Water Guarantee Scheme for providing clean water to every household in Maharashtra will be introduced. The new Swayambhu Pani Yojana in every village will make use of solar energy for water purification.

None of these promises have been fulfilled.

Overall, we find considerable work being done in the field of irrigation. The result has been that the number of tankers used in rural areas have gone down due to higher water availability and farm productivity has improved. Water is critical for Maharashtra. The Fadnavis government should be commended for its work in this field.v

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