When I first reached Nasik, even during the hot summer, I could feel the pleasant morning breeze. Nasik, I am told has a nicer weather. Temperatures weren't as harsh as the other places I had visited during my time in the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra.
While papers reported Nasik was one of the badly hit districts, it was difficult to find effects of the water scarcity. Godavari river was flowing through the heart of the city. People were jogging and walking along the banks of the river, enjoying the bounty of nature, probably unaware of the havoc lack of water was wreaking just 50kms away from the city. Even my guide tells me, Nasik has no drought. "The fields are all green as far as I saw", he adds.
At a distance of 45kms from Nasik, the last of water providing canals passed by. Only then the green landscape turned brown and barren as we moved away from the city towards the talukas of Sinnar, Yeola and Chandrod. Geographically arid and in the rain-shadow region, these areas have a history of low rainfall. The slow process of desertification was visible. I could only see parched land and cactuses growing in the fields next to the road.
As we entered Pangi village of Sinnar taluka, villagers were queuing up to fill water from the tanker that had just arrived. Talking to the women there, I am told they barely carry 4-5 pots of water for the next 3 days. Unable to comprehend how families can survive on such meager resources, I moved to talk to the men of the village. Sarjarao Paigude, a farmer and his family now survives only on the rations provided by the public distribution system. He had 2 goats, unable to feed them properly, the condition of his goats quickly deteriorated. He figured it was better to let the animals die in his home instead of facing slaughter in the hands of butchers. One goat is dead already while the other is slowly heading towards a tragic end, he tells me.
Once known for thriving poultry industry, today all the farms are abandoned and empty. Rearing chickens requires a lot of water to keep the animals cool, when there isn't any water even for people to take bath daily, how could they provide for the birds? I saw no semblance of farming and fields passing through the villages. These people have been living with water scarcity for the past 3 years.
Further ahead in Mithsagar village, a tired looking Ramesh Chatur, who owns 4 acres of land and 7 animals, tells me the situation is hopeless. He had to sell all seven of his cows to the butchers to provide for his family. With no relief camps in these villages unlike those of Beed and Sholapur districts, people are being forced to let their cattle die – either under their own watch or in the hands of the butchers. I am told more than half of the village has sold their cattle already and many people have migrated to neighboring cities looking for employment.
With no crop yield in the past 3 years, not even during monsoons, these villages of Nasik district were the worst hit compared to all the other villages I had visited. Heading back towards the city of Nasik, I saw the looming chimneys of Sinnar Power Plant through the dried up guava plantation with no leaves and no fruits. I wondered, as I escaped to comforts of running water, is relief in sight for the farmers?
Images: © Neelima Vallangi/Greenpeace
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Neelima is a travel blogger and photographer. She travelled across the drought-hit regions of Maharastra to find out the reality of the situation in the area.
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