Dried out lands become very common view in many region of Marathwada.



In the summer of 2016, consecutive scanty rainfall in the western Indian State of Maharashtra over the last few years has worsened the water crisis. According to the Indian government, around 330 million people – almost a quarter of Indian population – are affected by drought. The state government of Maharashtra has declared 15,747 villages of 12,183 Gram Panchayats in 21 districts as drought affected. Among them the worst-hit region is Marathwada (400 km away from Mumbai – the financial capital of India), spread across of 64590 km2 in Maharashtra and had a population of 18,731,872 at the 2011 census of India. As the 2015 monsoon with an average deficit rainfall of 50% in the region for the third time in a row, has intensified the situation. Some parts received even less: a meagre 35% of normal rainfall. “This year’s drought is exceptional. It has exceeded the drought of 1972 when the state witnessed one of its worst droughts ever. The shortage was of food grains and not water. Groundwater was available within six metres, but now even 244-metre-deep bore wells have gone dry.” – states an elderly sugarcane farmer standing on his farmland at Massa village in Osmanabad district.

Primarily due to a vicious circle of poor rainfall, crop failure and rising debts, farmer suicides in Marathwada region have become a common incident. According to a government official, in 2015 more than 1,100 suicides among farmers were reported in Marathwada and 339 more took this extreme step between January and March, 2016 in the regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada.  Maharashtra also recorded the number of farmer suicides in 2015 and 2016 at 3228 and 3661 respectively, highest in last 14 years. “We always have a problem with water. However, this year is even worse in our area,” said Arjun Kashinath Kumbad (75) from Borda village, Kalamb taluka in Osmanabad district. “People are not even getting water for drinking and bathing. Forget about water for crops. All our crops have been destroyed. How will we survive? No wonder farmers are killing themselves. It is impossible to repay loans.”


As much as 84% of Maharashtra’s agriculture is rain-fed, but the rainfall varies widely in different regions. Maharashtra has only 49% of the water it should have stored in its dams. In Marathwada’s dams, those levels are as low as 8%. With as many as 10,000 borewells being sunk every month here in Marathwada region, water withdrawal has exceeded recharge, and aquifers—veins of underground water—have gone dry in many Marathwada villages. People are facing water crisis as groundwater level in 61 talukas out of 76 takukas across the all eight districts of Marathwada (Aurangabad, Jalna, Parbhani, Hingoli, Nanded, Osmanabad, Latur, and Beed) has dropped severely as compared to the average level during the past five years. The more alarming news is the continuing dip in water tables in the region over the last five years, alongside a huge surge in digging of wells and bore wells in drought-hit areas.

Depleting Groundwater levels in Marathwada: Comparing levels during 2012 – 2013 drought year with present levels and change from five – year average. (Data from Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA), Maharashtra government.)

As a part of the drought relief measures, the State government of Maharashtra has started fodder camps for cattle in the drought affected districts. The camps offer free fodder, water and shelter for the cattle. It is usually the farmer’s responsibility to feed their cows / buffaloes and therefore, at least one person from the family lives in the cattle camps along with his livestock as long as the camps are open. Required water for the cattle is provided from bore wells and supply from water tankers as well. The government provides INR 70 per day for cows/ bulls/ buffaloes and INR 35 per day for calves. The farmers are allowed to take their cattle out for work and can sell the milk. As the drought-hit village economy is facing crisis due to severe scarcity of water, accumulated debt, deteriorating crop yields, mass migration in desperate search of employment and water is more acute this year than ever before. Mostly the young people from villages migrate to as far as Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune to work as daily-wagers. The drought migrants have no homes in the city; some have made makeshift shelters on construction sites, footpaths and park benches. Weddings in most of the families were cancelled, either because there’s no money or because girls don’t want to marry into drought-hit villages.  


In almost every village in drought-hit Marathwada, people specially women and children can be seen walking miles to fetch a single pot of water. Due to depletion of groundwater level, most of the villagers have to depend on tanker water to the villages once in a week or once a fortnight. To give relief to the people of parched Latur district and some adjoining areas, Indian Railways started service of a water train named ‘Jaldoot Express’ between Miraj in Osmanabad district to Latur city carrying its precious cargo of fresh drinking water over a distance of 343 km. On 11th April, 2016, the train first started with 10 tanker wagons carrying 50,000 litres of water. Later, the number of wagons was increased to 50. Till 30th July, 2016, the train has supplied nearly 24 crore litres of drinking water. To avoid any law-and-order situation during water distribution, local administration has imposed section 144 of the IPC for the first-time during drought.


2015 monsoon with an average deficit rainfall of 50% for the third time in a row making it one of the worse affected state by drought of 2015-16. Some parts received even less: a meagre 35% of normal rainfall has intensified the situation.

Khomnal Village pond at Mangalwheda taluka, Solapur district in Maharashtra serves primarily as recharge for ground water sources in the village. The pond usually has water around the year. As far as villagers remember, the pond has never been completely dry at any point of the year. However, this year in march, the pond is completely dry.
A completely dried groundwater well in Kuranwadi village, Ambajogai taluk, Beed district.
In most parts of Maharashtra, people are facing water crisis as groundwater level in 61 talukas out of 76 takukas across the all eight districts of Marathwada has dropped severely as compared to the average level during the past five years.
Fetching water from a distant location during scorching heat of summer is a common view here in drought-hit areas of Marathwada. In almost every village of drought-hit Marathwada, people especially women, walking miles to fetch a single pot of water.
A young boy of Sohale village, Mohol taluka, Solapur district in Maharashtra is carrying water from a well about 500m away from his house. The well is incomplete and dry but has been filled with water supplied from a water tanker of 17000 litres capacity and costs Rs1800. It has been filled twice in the last 15 days.
The deteriorating water situation can be gauged by the steady decline in farming in many areas of Marathwada.
Farming land full of dried out crops at a village in parched Beed district, Marathwada.

The poor rainfall and low yield from the deep bore well in most of the farming field led to the loss of crop. Farmers, most of whom grow sugarcane and cotton, both water-intensive crops, are the worst hit.
Miles of landscape of dried out field has become a common view in most of the areas in parched Marathwada.
A dried out canal in Solapur district, Maharashtra. The area is under irrigation network of almost 100 km away Ujjani dam and a canal connects the villages that passes nearby. Villagers say that the last time they saw water in the canal was 9 months back.
A dried out canal at an interior village in Beed district, Marathwada.
Sharad Bapurao Gaekwad (30) of Sukli village, Beed district, has sugarcane in 1 acre and 6 acres of cotton. Irrigation for these crops is from a deep bore well, which is around 300 feet in depth. The poor rainfall and low yield from the deep bore well in his farm led to the loss of crop in the last season. Mr. Gaekwad says that he has lost around INR 90000 because of poor yields in the sugar cane crop.
A dried out cotton field at Sukli village of Beed district, Marathwada.
A dried out field of pomegranate at Shirnandgi village of Mangalwedha taluk, Solapur district in Maharashtra.
Devastating drought grips almost entire Marathwada.
As yields suffered and cumulative losses over three years, pushed many farmers to the brink and some, unfortunately beyond.
Farmer Arjun Kashinath Kumbad (75) from Borda village, in Osmanabad district of Marathwada at a cattle fodder camp at Andora village. He has around 4 acres of farming land in his village and had planted Sorghum (jowar) in the last season. However, In 2014-15, deficit monsoon and unseasonal rains lead to a decline in the production. He has failed to save the crop as the bore well in his farmland have also gone dry. Lack of sufficient fodder and water for his cattle prompted him to take his 5 cows to the cattle camp.
Dried land and dead trees are everywhere.
Farmers are also struggling to arrange sufficient drinking water for their cattle in drout-hit areas.
A woman takes break while migrating with her livestock at an interior area of Osmanabad district, Marathwada.
While migrating, she always has to arrange drinking water for herself and her livestock. Drought this year makes the situation more complex.
Farmer Tulsi Bajirao Sirki (60 y) at a cattle fodder camp in Osmanabad district, Marathwada. He owns around 5 acres of farming land and failed to save his crops because of inadequate water. Drinking water needs for his 6 family members is now met from the bore well in his farm while the cattle (a cow, three bulls and one calf) are taken care in the cattle camp. The family is completely dependent on farming and is unemployed as of now.
At fodder camps for cattle, sugarcane bagasse collected from the nearby sugar mill is mainly used to feed the cattle.
A farmer at the cattle fodder camp in Beed district, Marathwada.
The three worst-affected districts of Beed, Osmanabad and Latur do not have enough fodder to sustain their animals. Cow shelters cannot bear the load of additional cattle, forcing farmers to sell off their livestock at throwaway prices.
Water tankers on their way to the villages in parched Beed, Marathwada. Most of the 7,500 villages in Marathwada, spread across eight districts, are starved of water.
People sprint to the lone water tank in the middle of the village, where the tanker will offload its precious cargo. As the water flows, people bend over the tank walls to fill their vessels and hurry home to come back for more.
As a water tanker visits at Kanharbadi village of Beed distric after 15 days, villagers start stepping out of their homes with buckets, pots and pans in hand. They have heard this water tanker while it was still a kilometre away.
Sudden increase in demand of the water storing drums have made them costlier in the drought-hit areas of Marathwada.
Since the bore wells and hand pumps provided by the Gram panchayat are not in proper function, residents of the village usually line up to ensure they have sufficient water for drinking purpose and household needs.
In Khomnal village of Mangalwheda taluka, Solapur district, only one hand pump provided by the gram panchayat are still in function but the low yield from this water sources does not meet the need for the1600 villagers properly.
Since last two months in Massa village of Osmanabad district, villagers have started to recharge their dried out groundwater well once in a week by a water tanker (17000 liters) which costs Rs1800. Till now the villagers have been bearing the cost of this water tanker. People fear that this may not be possible for them to continue in the long run.
Ranba nivrati devkate (55) of Kuranwadi village, Ambajogai taluk, Beed district owns about 45 acres of farmland. He mostly cultivated jowar and due to poor rainfall last year, the crop yields were low. The family also owns around 43 cattle which requires at least a 1000 litres of water each day. After the failed harvesting season, they had no other way but to move into their farmlands leaving their houses at a distant village and have started liviing temporarily in a make shift house there . They have a bore well in their farmland but nowadays, it does not provide more than 300 litres of water per day. He fears that they will also have to depend on water tankers soon as their bore well will eventually dry in a few days.
Bore well water is the only option for some remote villages where water tankers fail to reach at a regular interval. Sometimes 2/3 villages have to depend on a bore well as most of the bore wells are not in function due to depleting groundwater level.
A migrating farmer family at an interior village of Beed district, Marathwada. It?s not just about parched land and dry taps, but there?s a humanitarian crisis that?s unfolding in the villages of Marathwada. People are forced to migrate to cities in search of jobs and to get rid of this severe water scarcity.
Distress migration from villages is happening on an unprecedented scale and only the children and the old could be found in many villages.