A woman fetches water form a small tank outside her house in the village of Sawantwadi in Beed district, Maharashtra. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Tanker-Fed Beed Is Struggling To Find Water To Drink    

Every time a water tanker makes way through dusty bylanes Khalapuri village in Beed, women and children scramble with coloured plastic drums for their share. They get supply once in eight days.

“But we can’t use it for drinking,” said Rita Parjane. It’s turbid and stinks. “For drinking, we buy water jars,” she said, referring to cans they buy from a local villager.

Anil Parjane, who grows cotton in his five-acre farm, sells drinking water in the village. He draws it from a 300-foot-deep borewell in is fields and filters it using a small purifier, he said over the phone—BloombergQuint couldn’t visit to verify how he makes the water potable.

“We put the cans in a pick-up truck and deliver it to villagers,” said Parjane, who named his venture Jai Hanuman Aqua. For one can of 18 litres, he charges Rs 20.

Tanker-Fed Beed Is Struggling To Find Water To Drink    

Beed, about 350 kilometres east of Mumbai, falls in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region that received only 33 percent of its long-term average rainfall last year. It’s one of the 26 districts declared drought-hit. Most reservoirs have no water, and aquifers have depleted to such an extent that nearly all wells have run dry, leaving farmlands parched, and people without a drop to drink.

Before the farmer started providing potable water, local residents had to go to neighbouring villages in search of water, said Kiran Parjane, sarpanch of Khalapuri. Since the tanker supply is not clean, they spend up to Rs 1,000 a month to buy water.

Women from the neighbouring Arvi village also rely on such canisters of potable water. “Tanker water is very dirty, we can’t drink it,” said Kesarbai Kashid. “We either walk two-three kilometres to fetch it from a well or buy the can.”

Water received from the tanker at Khalapuri village of Beed district. (BloombergQuint)
Water received from the tanker at Khalapuri village of Beed district. (BloombergQuint)

Arvi villagers said two local farmers also purified and sold water—BloombergQuint couldn’t contact them.

The situation is bad despite the district administration supplying water through 602 tankers. At times the quality of the water is not good for drinking, admitted Astik Kumar Pandey, the district collector of Beed. “We have a shortage. Places where our tankers lift the water from are in dead storage (bare minimum level that can’t be drawn),” he said. “When we get the reports that water is non-potable or dirty, we try to change the source.”

Pandey said Beed is a huge district and tankers travel 80-100 kilometres to fetch water from reservoirs. “We have only one big source that is Jaikawadi dam, which is 150 km away and also in dead storage.”

A man drinks water at a cattle market in Beed, Maharashtra, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)
A man drinks water at a cattle market in Beed, Maharashtra, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

And whatever people get from tankers is used sparingly. Kashid said they recycle the water used for bathing for other purposes.

Help For Livestock

Drought in the predominantly rural region means farmers also have to ensure their livestock has enough water. Most families rear cows and buffaloes but there has been a shortage of fodder and water.

Cattle at one of the fodder camps in Beed district. 
Cattle at one of the fodder camps in Beed district. 

The local administration is providing help. It started 532 animal fodder camps in the district for more than 2 lakh animals.

But farmers have to stay with their cattle 24x7. They aren’t complaining though. “Here, the cattle is looked after very well,” Raosaheb Shilke, a farmer at a fodder camp said. “We hope the rains will come soon.”