This monsoon in Marathwada is a hopeful one—in most parts, there has been adequate rain. The year’s crop promises to make up for four years of drought in this region of Maharashtra.
Despite this optimism, the state remains unprepared to deal with droughts and their consequences. Most of the government's efforts at drought mitigation have simply been eyeball-grabbing gestures. Take the supply of water via railway wagons to Latur city. A year-long research study carried out jointly by Mumbai-based think tank Observer Research Foundation and NGO Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, showed that there were problems with distribution; Dalit bastis, settlements of nomadic communities, and slum dwellers did not receive water. Another instance is the deepening and widening of river beds under the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, a state-government water conservation programme. In a PIL he filed on 18 May that was accepted by the National Green Tribunal, the Latur-based environmental lawyer Shriram Kulkarni deemed the programme “ecologically devastating.” Yet another example is the prohibitory orders around some water bodies in Latur that, in an attempt to prevent water riots, make it unlawful for more than five people to congregate around a water body.
All these measures ignore the core issue of drought management: that of having a credible estimation of water availability and planning around it.