Drought threat looms large over Maharashtra

July 16th, 2008 - 10:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, July 16 (IANS) With monsoon failing in many parts of Maharashtra, the threat of a severe drought looms large in the state, according to official statistics on rainfall released here Wednesday. Till Tuesday,half the state - 18 out of the 35 districts - recorded less than 50 percent of the season’s expected total rainfall, hinting at tough times ahead.

Five districts received between 75-100 percent rainfall, while eight districts received between 50-75 percent rains, according to an official announcement.

The government said only four districts - all falling in the Konkan belt - have received adequate rainfall during the current monsoon season.

Even the number of days it has rained in different parts of the state is a cause for concern. While it rained for only two days in Solapur, Latur and Ahmednagar got rains for just six days. Sangli had rains for eight days and Aurangabad for nine days.

This has directly hit the peak sowing season in 1.28 billion hectares of farmlands spread across the state. So far, sowing has been taken up in only 48 percent of the farming areas, the government said.

However, the coastal Konkan region - comprising Mumbai, Mumbai suburban district, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg - has reasons to cheer. It received adequate rainfall during the current season, well above 1000 mm.

The lowest rainfall - less than 100 mm - has been recorded in Solapur, Ahmednagar, Latur, Osmanabad, Aurangabad, Sangli, Dhule, Beed, Hingoli, Buldana, Jalgaon and Jalna districts, where gloom pervades the farming community and commoners alike.

This year, Solapur has remained virtually parched, receiving just 14.7 mm rainfall so far, while Ratnagiri was on the other extreme, receiving 1165.40 mm rainfall.

Sensing elections, the state opposition has already announced its plans to make political capital out of the drought-like situation.

Anticipating the disastrous fallout that a drought could have on the elections that are round the corner, the state government last week hurriedly gathered its act by earmarking Rs.3.5 billion to be paid for various Employment Guarantee Schemes in the state.

The announcement follows the state government declaring 164 out of 355 talukas (sub-districts) as `scarcity-hit’ owing to scanty rainfall.

The rainfall figures released exactly a week later (Wednesday) have set the alarm bells ringing for politicians gearing up for the state assembly elections, likely to be held in the second half of 2009.

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