Finally, the water crisis in Maharashtra has encouraged political parties to come together and provide a long-term solution to combat the drought-like situation.
A case in point would be the Dhanegaon dam, which dried up completely in the third week of March, the first time since it was built in 1981. The 64-metre high dam with a storage capacity of 227 billion cubic metres, is a lifeline for three big cities — Latur, Kalamb and Kej. Almost 70 per cent of Latur residents have borewells, but they also have run dry.
Hence, in Latur, the residents have taken one of the most daring initiatives in the recent past. They have decided to de-silt and widen two barrages with their own money. While the barrages hold no water now, residents have begun work on them to ensure that when it rains this year, there will be enough water collected in them to last a year thereafter.
Meanwhile, though the task seems simple, on the ground, it’s backbreaking and challenging. It involves increasing the storage capacity of Manjara River, the lifeline of Latur. The residents will de-silt the Manjara over a staggering 18-km stretch: from Sai village barrage to Nagzari village to Karsapohre village.
According to residents, once the projects witness completion, the two barrages are likely to store 18,500 MLD (million litres per day) of water during the monsoon. Latur has a population of 5 lakh-plus, and needs 50 million litres every day, or 18,250 MLD annually.
Another advantage of such an exercise is that it will prevent a flood-like situation in the vicinity. Experts suggest that most of the dams and the riverbed will require substantial amount of de-silting.
For instance, take Gangapur village which is in Latur. The village requires around 1 lakh litres of water every day. The need has been fulfilled to some extent by a large lake in the village. However, the villagers suffer from a great deal of water shortage during summer months. Realising the need for water, and to increase the storage capacity of the lake, the villagers decided to dig another lake. A lake of area 100 feet x 100 feet and height of 25-30 feet was built in the existing lake that has an expanse of around 52 acres.
Another classic example of public will is Telhara, a small hamlet in the foothills of the Satpuda range, which used to get waterlogged, causing huge losses to the farmers. During the floods in 2014-15, an area of 383 ha around the village was affected. To overcome the problem, there was a need to deepen the riverbed. People joined hands and a stretch of 10 km was deepened and widened. Sediment to the extent of 5.4 lakh cu m was removed. The farmers made use of the sediment to make their soils fertile.
The story of Divthana village in Akot taluka is similar. Despite no rains in the previous year, the village has abundant water. The reason, a total of 70 cement nalla bundings were widened, deepened and repaired in the taluka. The stream at Divthana was deepened by the villagers, who also carried out repairs to the existing cement nalla bunding.