In Drought-hit Latur, The Fear Of Riots Over Water

Latur Drought
Thousands of people, mostly poor farmers, have left Latur recently because of water scarcity.

Groups of people have been banned from gathering near water sources in the Latur district of Maharashtra to prevent riots over water. It’s an unprecedented step, but in a region where water tankers arrive only once a week, and water through the taps just once a month, violence over who gets that water is not unfathomable.

“Water is brought from a distance of 35 kms and often local politicians have been forcibly diverting water tankers to their areas,” said Latur Collector Pandurang Pol.

Dnyaneshwar Chavan, the police chief of Latur, said no more than five people are allowed at wells and public storage tanks for the next two months.

“There have been incidents of violence,” the officer told news agency AFP.

Latur, about 400 kilometres east of Mumbai, is part of Maharashtra’s drought-ravaged Marathwada regjon,  and its half-a-million residents are reeling from years of below-par monsoon rains.

Last year around 1,400 farmers committed suicide in the region over crop failure from a lack of water and an inability to meet loan payments.

And officials fear the worst this year as most of Marathwada’s lakes and reservoirs lie empty months before the annual monsoon is expected to arrive.

Local resident Narayan Bhutada said the ban on groups could end legitimate demonstrations.   “People now won’t be able to protest against water shortage. We had a Chief Minister from Latur and so many politicians but they didn’t do much for the city,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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