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Low water levels in rivers a concern for Sattari farmers

Valpoi: A vast area in Sattari still does not have access to potable water in summer.  Women in some villages have to walk kilometres to bring home a few pots of drinking water. There are areas in Valpoi town where families depend on water supplied by tankers. So, if there is scarcity of drinking water in summer the question of irrigating crops would scarcely arise despite the fact that taluka is blessed with four rivers Mahadayi, Valvanti, Ragada and Velus, besides several smaller tributaries that are up to the brim during monsoon but dry during summer.

The drastic depletion of water in the rivers flowing in Sattari has given rise to concern among farming community as it is largely affecting irrigation of fields.

When this daily visited villages like Guleli, Bhironde, Sonal, Savorde, it was found that most of the farming activities are affected due to low water level in the rivers flowing in the areas. Unaware of the reasons, farmers only blame WRD for not taking measures for conserving water.   A survey conducted by the reporter found that many farmers have installed pumps to lift water; WRD records state that it has set up 30 ‘lift irrigation system’ on these rivers. Besides, at many places people extract ground water from open well or through bore well.  It is found that extensive groundwater withdrawal through pumping depletes the ground water. If groundwater continues to be extracted at the current unsustainable rate, it would adversely affect the agriculture in near future. Researchers say that decrease of groundwater base flow has had a severe impact on the health of these rivers. No doubt the soaring mercury in this summer leaves Sattari dry and according to available information, bandharas constructed on these reservoirs fail to arrest water.

Progressive farmers from Velus, Advoi, Dhamse and Savorde villages, who grow areca nut, banana, coconut and other crops, told ‘The Navhind Times’ that bandharas are in a dilapidated condition and worn out iron plates are failing to prevent the water from seeping downstream, leading to low water levels in these reservoirs.

Apparently, these reservoirs were constructed to save rain water for use during the summer. However, it appears that the government has failed to undertake timely maintenance of these reservoirs which could be one reason for early drying of these rivers. The sediment deposited at the mouth of the bandharas also needs to be desilted.

According to the researchers, measures such as growing lower water-consuming crops, reducing groundwater extraction and recharging aquifers can help check the drying of the rivers in summers.

Many farmers believe that water diversion of Mahadayi by Karnataka at Kankumbi has led to the downfall of water flow in river. According to them, this season has shown a major fall of water level in the river basin and it is a serious concern and they feel that the government should take immediate measures.  “The only solution to avoid the drying of these rivers is constructing a dam; the government must think on the project which was started in Thane panchayat area at Charavane. This will solve water woes of all the major villages,” claimed a group of farmers from Sattari.  

Meanwhile, in Sattari, traditional rainwater harvesting is still prevalent in surface storage bodies like lakes, ponds and irrigation tanks, temple tanks etc. In urban areas, however, due to the shrinking of open spaces, rainwater has to be harvested in order to ensure that the ground water level goes up. However, government should take serious note of these observations and find a solution to these early drying of rivers to sustain agriculture in rural areas.

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