Madhya Pradesh stares at grim drought

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Bhopal, June 3 (IANS) The peak summer is called ‘Nautapa’ — nine days of intense heat — in Madhya Pradesh. Though the period ended on Monday, the met office refuses to forecast any relief from the scorching heat in the next 48 hours.

Half the state is experiencing high temperatures with the mercury in Khajuraho and Naugaon reaching 47.5 degree Celsius. At 48.3 degrees Celsius, Gwalior broke a 72-year-old record on Friday.

Some areas of the Malwa region experienced sporadic showers, which could mean added humidity. Capital Bhopal crossed the 44 degree Celsius-mark for the fourth successive day on Monday.

This year’s monsoon has been delayed by a fortnight. Over the past 20 years, only once did the monsoon set in in the second week of June. This year, however, it could be delayed beyond June 24.

The resultant delay has left the farmers worrying. The uncertainly about sowing has doubled as there is a likelihood of the showers being interspersed with long gaps. That can force multiple rounds of sowing, which might derail the cropping calendar.

The heat wave has lashed most parts of the state, keeping people indoors in Damoh, Gwalior, Khajuraho and Naogaon. Satna, Umaria Rewa, Tikamgarh ,Shajapur, Khargone, Guna and Shivpuri districts too experienced high temperatures for a better part of the past week.

Dust storms have been forecast till Wednesday in Singrauli, Rewa, Sidhi, Seoni, Khargone, Betul, Burhanpur, Anuppur, Balaghat, Dewas, Satna and Chhindwara districts, while dry spell would extend in the remaining districts.

The met department has issued an alert of severe loo in all the districts of Mandla, Rewa, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Sagar, Gwalior and Chambal divisions and in Umaria, Raisen, Rajgarh, Kharguna and Shajapur districts in the next 24 hours.

Even before the onset of monsoon, nearly 4,000 villages are staring at acute drought in 36 out of the 52 districts in the state.

A lean monsoon last year brought in its trail a grave crisis for the third successive year. Way back on March 15, a report by the Panchayat and Rural Development department said that 40 rivers that provided water to these villages have gone dry and the micro-watershed management was in complete disarray. Most parts of the state have experienced 20 to 50 per cent deficient rainfall for the past two years.

Villages in Bundelkhand had begun to experience water scarcity early in November. The Bundelkhand region is experiencing the fourth successive drought in five years while the rest of the state had a normal monsoon in 2017.

This year, the worst-affected of the 36 districts is Katni with 305 villages experiencing water crisis. Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s stronghold Chhindwara is another district where water management has failed and 145 villages bear the brunt of the crisis.

Another 2,000 villages are affected in the districts of Rewa, Chhatarpur, Jhabua, Rajgarh, Sagar, Seoni, Dewas , Mandla, Neemuch , Damoh and Shivpuri.

Some villagers in Tikamgarh district in the Bundelkhand region are travelling more than five kilometres every day to fetch water for over three years now. Even the Swachh Bharat Mission has taken a hit as women have to walk long distances to use toilets. The community toilets have no water in most villages.

The Panchayat and Rural Development department has drawn up a plan to raise the groundwater level by recharging the rivers through community participation. The objective is to raise rural jobs and provide drinking water through works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The state government may seek the Election Commission’s approval for sustaining work to mitigate the crisis. Considerable time was lost during the Lok Sabha elections with the model code of conduct cramping the administration.

Bhopal, which is also known as City of Lakes, is facing a grim situation with the administration formally declaring it a low water availability zone. A 33-year-old Water Conservation Act has been invoked to ban drilling of borewells, except for drinking water. This year the Upper Lake, the main source of drinking water supply in Bhopal, has already hit dead storage levels.



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