ASIA/INDIA - Thousands of villages in Marathwada affected by famine and drought

Monday, 18 February 2013

Aurangabad (Agenzia Fides) – At least 12 thousand villages affected by prolonged drought in the district of Marathwada, in the central Indian state of Maharashtra, now face severe famine due to massive damage to crops over the past 12 months. Two monsoons, brief but intense, destroyed harvests of kharif and rabi. Crops of jowar and bajra, two local strains of millet, cotton and legumes were completely washed away by a 2012 monsoon during the kharif season. The same happened in the rabi season. Some 16 thousand hectares of jowar and 22 thousand hectares of cotton in villages in Shirur Taluka, Pune district, were lost. The district worst hit was Jalna, the largest producer of sweet lime which lost about 55 thousand hectares of crops. Sweet lime, very difficult to grow, bears fruit only after 5 years of great care. From the fifth year onwards it produces fruit for 25 years. For farmers in Jalna the disaster meant the loss of the fruits of a whole year of extremely hard work. During the last famine registered in the Maharashtra region, in 1972, the people had no food but they did have water. Whereas in the present situation families in Marathwada are spending all their money to buy water. The situation threatens to become worse in Shirur, where people in Bankawadi have to drink dirty, polluted water drawn from wells at which even animals refuse to drink. India’s Minister of Agriculture has described the water situation in Maharashtra State as very serious, with the country witnessing the worst drought in 50 years. (AP) (18/2/2013 Agenzia Fides