A half constructed catchment pond	A half constructed catchment pond.

Considering the severity of the drought situation in Maharashtra, one would think farmers and people living without water would be given top priority. But in a strange turn of events, water has been allocated to thermal power plants across the state which threatens to take away what little water is left with the already distressed farmer.

Sitting on the banks of Upper Wardha dam, I was listening to farmer, Sanjay Kohle, who along with countless others in Amravati district has been actively waging a war against the allocation of water to the Indiabulls Power Plant in Vidarbha region that has seen the worst case of farmer suicides all through the last decade. In a country where agriculture is the lifeline of many, it is sad to see the complete lack of empathy and consideration while taking such huge decisions that impact the livelihoods of millions of people.

At a village called Shendurjana Khurd, that is at the end of the right bank distribution canal of Upper Wardha dam, the villagers are apprehensive about losing all the prosperity it has seen in the recent years should the water be diverted to the power plant. Almost at the end of the 93km canal, it is these villages at the trailing end that will first return to a state of despair without water. Just a week ago, a farmer tried to commit suicide due to failed crops in this village. The Sarpanch spoke for all villagers when he said “All our lives are dependent on agriculture and farming.” But I wonder, aren’t all our lives dependent on agriculture and farming, if not for food grown by the farmers, what else do we eat? Year after year, hit by a series of droughts, why will anyone choose to be a farmer in the coming days?

Landless labour, Shaukat Shah Noorshah	Landless labour, Shaukat Shah Noorshah.

Everywhere I went, there seemed to a silent acceptance stemming from despair and helplessness about the continued water scarcity. Deprived of basic right to clean and healthy living, many readjusted their lives to survive without water in miserable conditions. Land owners who have acres of fertile land are letting their land go barren and asking for a small place in the city where they could get some work and some water. Water is irreplaceable and there is no life without water. Maharashtra’s drought has shown us how water scarcity can affect millions of people in millions of ways. It is time we made amends.

Everywhere I went, there was also a common opinion that this drought isn’t due to poor rainfall, and the monsoons were fine. Mismanagement of existing resources coupled with no provision to stop rain water and let the earth refill its aquifers, it wouldn’t be farfetched to call this drought man-made.  Day after day new borewells are being dug to meet the rising demands of the cities and villages. Unless the supply matches the demand, the day isn’t far when even the groundwater would go completely dry.

Looking at the severe drought, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. Today, the first affected are the farmers and priority is given for commercial interests and industrial usage. Seeing how badly we failed our farmers, there isn’t much hope that tomorrow will be any better for the rest of us. Now is the time to act, to conserve water, to use it judiciously, but more importantly to share it fairly.

Images: © Neelima Vallangi/Greenpeace


Support the farmers' movement to get back water that's been give away to industries in the drought-hit region of Maharashtra.

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Neelima VallangiNeelima 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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