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Maharashtra’s water crisis UPSC NOTE

 Why do different regions of Maharashtra experience varied levels of water stress?

  • After the deficient monsoon last year, the Maharashtra government declared many parts of the State to be drought-hit. 

  • This situation is in sharp contrast with the State’s coastal areas, where rainfall has often been in excess, leading to severe flooding

  • Marathwada’s predicament is shaped by its location, topography, soil type, agricultural practices, and crop choices.

Why is sugarcane production not suited for regions with less rainfall?

  • Marathwada’s agricultural practices are not well suited to its low rainfall. 

  • A major contributor to the region’s water crisis is sugarcane cultivation. 

  • Sugarcane requires 1,500-2,500 mm of water in its growing season

  • While pulses and millets require four or five irrigations across their crop life, sugarcane needs to be irrigated almost every day

  • Today, the crop occupies 4% of the total cropped area in the region and consumes 61% of the irrigation water

  • As a result, the average river outflow in the upper Bhima basin has almost halved.

What is meant by the rain-shadow effect?

  • Marathwada lies in the rain-shadow region of the Western Ghats

  • When moist winds from the Arabian Sea encounter these mountains, they rise and cool, causing heavy rainfall (2,000-4,000 mm) on the western side

  • But by the time these winds cross the Ghats and descend into Western Maharashtra and Marathwada, they lose most of their moisture, leaving Marathwada much drier (600-800 mm).


How can supply-side solutions help the situation?

  • Supply-side solutions are about making the most of available resources. 

  • They include classical watershed management work (such as building water-conserving structures like contour trenches, earthen bunds, gully plugs, etc.). 

  • Second, rainwater that runs off agricultural fields carries the very soil that doesn’t allow the water to percolate. So many of these structures accumulate silt. 

  • Funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme could be used to design silt-trapping mechanisms and organise training programmes for farmers on periodic desilting.

  • Marathwada must also shift to other high-value, low-water-using crops, while sugarcane production must move to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

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