Water-deficient Marathwada needs crop pattern change: Expert

Aurangabad: The pattern of crop sowing in parched Marathwada needs to change as per availability of water because dams in the region are not efficient with irrigation, said environmentalist and water management expert Vijay Diwan.

He said 80 per cent of water was spent on sugarcane cultivation, and claimed growing jowar (sorghum) and maize, which need less water, could give farmers as much profits. Speaking at a lecture at Mahatma Gandhi Study Centre in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Diwan said Marathwada receives just 309 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of natural water annually against Western Maharashtra's 585 TMC.

"It is high time to change crop pattern in Marathwada as per water availability," he said, adding that simple water saving habits among people would also go a long way in reducing woes in the region. Contending that dams built in Ahmednagar and Nashik were curtailing water to Marathwada, Diwan also highlighted how Jayakwadi dam, on the Godavari river, was not irrigating as much area as authorities said it would.

"When Jayakwadi dam was built, it was said it would irrigate 2.42 lakh hectares. Various tests in 1976 showed the irrigated land was just 1.42 lakh hectare. It's now irrigating only 28,000 hectares. Efficiency of dams in Marathwada is not very high," he claimed. He said Jayakwadi was supposed to get 81 TMC water annually but the actual inflow is much less.

Faulty sowing patterns "copied from other areas" had left lands in Marathwada barren and afflicted with diminishing productivity, Diwan claimed. "Out of 76 talukas, 29 get very less rainfall. Of this 29, some 12 talukas are perennially drought-prone. Groundwater levels are now below 800 feet," he said.

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