Reeling under successive droughts and falling water levels in dams, Maharashtra is staring at a conflict between two regions over water .

On Saturday, farmers of Nasik in north Maharashtra gheraoed State Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan over water release into the Jayakwadi dam, which caters to the Marathwada region.

Citing drought, they said water should not be released into the dam when their water needs are not fulfilled.

On the other hand, farmers and political leaders from Marathwada are citing the recent order from the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) to release 12.84 tmc ft of water into the Jayakwadi dam from upstream areas of north Maharashtra.

Experts fear a similar conflict situation may arise at all major dams in Marathwada soon.

The Jayakwadi dam meets the needs of Aurangabad, Jalana, Parbhani and Beed districts of the Marathwada region, which has been the worst hit by drought this year.

Drought is everywhere and even areas of Nasik and Ahmadnagar are severely affected. We are not against others, but our needs should also be fulfilled,” said Radhakrushna Vikhe-Patil of the Congress and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

As per the original plan in 1965, out of the 196 tmc ft of water to be made available in Jayakwadi, 81 tmc ft was for Marathwada while 115 tmc ft was meant for upstream areas in north Maharahstra. Subsequently, the upstream area was gifted with dams with a capacity of over 150 tmc ft which meant that the area was given 35 tmc ft extra water. In 2004, a new study on the Jayakwadi capped its capacity at 156 tmc ft, which further reduced Marathwada’s share.

“There is a need to re-examine this issue with a modern study. The water share must be decided considering today’s requirements as present figures are based from an age-old report,” said Pradeep Purandare, associate professor (retd.) at the Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI), Aurangabad.

Storage low

Water levels in dams across the State are falling rapidly with Marathwada being the worst affected. At present, storage in all projects in this region is a mere 14 per cent of actual capacity. In 2014, the level stood at 33 per cent.

A Central government team is travelling to Maharashtra — the third time this year — to assess crop loss due to drought. State’s Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Eknath Khadse has demanded a package of Rs. 4,000 crore for immediate drought-relief measures in 15,747 villages. Of this, Rs. 3,500 crore would be used to aid farmers, Rs. 314 crore for water supply in these areas and Rs. 109 crore for cattle feeding, he said. According to a government estimate, around 10,000 villages will face water shortage in the summer of 2016.