An open letter to Deputy Chief Minister Maharashtra, Mr Ajit Anantrao Pawar.

Respected Sir,

Greenpeace India is appalled at the callous and insensitive comments made by you as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, in Indapur, Pune, on Saturday, showing complete disregard to the farmers and the people of Maharashtra, as well as slighting their plight in what your own government has declared as the worst drought in 40 years.

Vidarbha and Marathwada are two regions which have seen historical negligence since the formation of the state of Maharashtra. However, despite the seriousness of the agricultural backlog and the implications it has on farmer's livelihoods, it is apathetic that the state government, far from helping the farmers, has instead constantly deprived them their rightful share of water, to feed the ever-increasing needs of the industries.

Your Government deprived farmers their water

A point in reference is the water policy the government adopted from 2003-2011, which prioritized serving industrial needs over agricultural needs. In the last ten years, the state has witnessed a massive increase in thermal power plants across Maharashtra and a corresponding increase in water diversion from agriculture to industry -- more than 65% of which is to thermal power plants.

We have to our evidence, the minutes of the High Powered Committee on water allocations, which you were a member of as the Minister for Water Resources (till 2010). The minutes show that in more than 28 meetings over 8 years, you were directly involved in allocating more than 760.91 million cubic metres of water which could irrigate almost 1.5 lakh hectares[1] of agricultural land across Maharashtra.

In Vidarbha, the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation has allocated more than 2000 Million cubic metres from the rivers Wardha and Wainganga to supply for 55,000 MW of coal power plants. This can irrigate atleast 4 Lakh hectares of land.

Though the policy was finally changed in 2011 to prioritise agriculture needs over industry, the new rules are yet to be notified. Interestingly, the amendments to the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Act has also prevented any reconsideration of previous diversions to industries.

Greenpeace commissioned a study last year to assess the impact of water allocations to thermal power plants in Vidarbha. The study done by IIT Delhi, found out that the water allocations to thermal power plants will reduce the water available for future uses by 40% in river Wardha and by

17% in river Wainganga. With a number of dams in the region still to be completed and the costs sky-rocketing, we fear whether these dams will eventually have any water for irrigation at all.

This drought could have been far less severe:

Maharasthra's districts are generally prone for drought because of the unpredictable rainfall pattern. Districts like Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Beed, Nanded, Nashik, Osmanabad, Pune, Parbhani, Sangli, Satara and Sholapur have been generally identified as drought prone for many decades now. The rainfall in these regions in the last two years has been below average, and this year Marathwada and central Maharashtra districts have had 30% less rainfall than usual.

Agriculture in these districts has suffered a serious setback. The Governor has stated in his assembly speech that more than 11,800 villages are facing drought. While the 1971-73 drought was a result of continuous low rainfall over three years, the improved weather forecasting and increasing irrigation acreage across Maharashtra must have made this drought far less severe.

Your government can prevent future droughts.

As a Deputy Chief Minister of the state, Water Resources minister for more than 8 years in the past and as a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party which holds the water resources portfolio, we urge you to adopt measures so that Maharashtra can prevent such a severe drought in the future.

Without any doubt, the short term measures to prevent today's drought are essential and more and more efforts are needed to prevent the socio-economic impacts this year's drought will bring in the future. But if the government does not recognize the need for mitigating the drought by long term planning, every few years we will have a sordid reminder of the 1970s.

Hoping that you will implement the following measures to prevent a recurring drought in Maharashtra.

The government should immediate halt of all the water diversions and allocations to the coal power plants in Vidarbha and in the drought affected regions of Marathwada.A cumulative water impact and availability assessment in the river basins of the state should be conducted so that water is not diverted without considering the needs of drinking water and irrigation.Maharashtra should actively promote renewable energy technologies which also have a potential to save water for irrigation and other needs, otherwise wasted by thermal power plants. [2]


Jai Krishna. R
Campaigner, Climate and Energy,


[1] Assuming 5,000 m3 of water irrigated 1 ha of single-cropped land.

[2] The state is one amongst the top five in the country which have high wind energy potential and has comparably high solar radiation levels (almost 6KWh/Sq.m). Recent reports have shown that the total wind energy potential could be well above 2,00,000 MW even at 80m hub heights.