Water experts warn of ‘desertification’ of Marathwada

  1. Economists and water experts have warned of “desertification” in the water scarce Marathwada region of Maharashtra. They have further said that the water crisis in the region is a policy induced failure.
  2. According to experts, though rainfall in Marathwada is below normal, it is enough to meet the basic drinking water and household needs of the populace besides leaving enough water for one crop.
  3. However, an unsustainable cropping pattern which has led to indiscriminate pumping of groundwater has depleted groundwater tables to an extent where rejuvenation has become impossible. According to data by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency, the water table had dropped alarmingly in 70 of the 76 talukas, with more than 25 reporting a drop of more than two metres.
  4. Given the arid climatic conditions in Marathwada, cereal and oilseeds had been the main crops traditionally cultivated in the region. However, predominant crops here are soybean and Bt Cotton which are not conducive for the region. Further, sugarcane cultivation and sugar mills have worsened the situation.
  5. The sugarcane crop is a water guzzler. On an average, sugarcane in Maharashtra requires 2,063-2,468mm of rainfall on one hectare to complete the crop’s 12-to-18 month cycle. Further, according to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), it takes 2,515 litres of water to produce a kilogram of sugar.
  6. However, despite being such a water-intensive crop, sugarcane grows to continue in the arid and water scarce Marathwada. This is primarily because sugarcane offers an assured price to the farmers which other crops fail to provide.

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