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Mar 21, 2013 at 04:57pm IST

Maharashtra: Village fights drought through effective water policies

Mumbai: The drought in Maharashtra is more a result of the states colossally corrupt and flawed water policy rather than simply monsoon failure, as experts say. But one village in Hiware Bazaar is showing just how a common-sense water policy goes a long way in mitigating acute water scarcity.

Drought-hit farmers struggle to find water in Jalna. But elsewhere in Jalna, it's like an oasis of water. Sprinklers, turned on 24/7 keep the garden inside NCP minister Rajesh Tope's Samarth Cooperative Sugar Factory lush and green. Tope incidentally is also the guardian minister for the Jalna district.

Sugar factories controlled by those like Mr Tope continue to use huge quantities of water for crushing. Experts also ask why the state has encouraged water guzzling crops like sugarcane. 200 kilometres away, a village in the Nagar district has shown how a common-sense water policy can work wonders. Hiware Bazaar was once barren with families migrating regularly for jobs.

Popatrao Pawar, former sarpanch of Hiwre Bazaar, said, "We had nothing, no water for miles. People became alcoholics." Sarpanch in the 90s, Popatrao started the rain harvesting and tree plantation program. Using the state's employmnet guarantee scheme, villagers built bunds and trenches to create a water shed.

In a region where there has been a sustained abuse of groundwater by frenzied digging of borewells, villagers here unanimously in 1994 banned the digging of private borewells. Water intense crops like sugarcane were banned and new cropping patterns were adopted.

Despite the drought, Hiwre Bazaar has had a profitable onion yield and sustained milk collection. But will these lessons percolate to other parched areas?