Farmers of drought-stricken Indapur village in Maharashra’s Pune district, which witnessed the tragic deaths of two of them on Wednesday night, say their water woes have heightened after the construction of the Nira-Bhima stabilisation project tunnels.
Two farmers from Akole village lost their lives after they fell to their deaths while trying to install a water pump in the vertical shaft of a tunnel. They had entered the shaft with the help of a makeshift crane installed on a tractor. The ropes of the bucket they were travelling in snapped and they plunged into the shaft. The farmers have been identified as Ratilal Balbhim Narute (56) and Anil Bapurao Narute (32), both residents of Siddheshwar Wasti in Kazad. Their last rites were performed early on Thursday.
The last time the village saw good rainfall was in 2019, when Sangli district was flooded. Rainfall is usually not enough to sustain and produce a good harvest in most years. This year, the rainfall levels were even worse. With wells already dry in November, farmers do not know how they will manage their crops till the next monsoon.
“We will have to make peace with the limited amount of water that we have and make the most of it,” said Tanhaji Pandhare, a farmer from Kazad.
The farmers said the water shortage has worsened because of the construction of 200-300ft tunnels for the Nira-Bhima stabilisation project. “The water in our wells used to last longer earlier. The situation right now seems like only the beginning of our problems. As the depth of the Nira-Bhima tunnel is around 300 ft, which is way more than our 50-60ft wells, the water flows and accumulates there,” Pandhare said.
In recent years farmers have installed motors in these tunnels, instead of using their already constructed and ready-to-use wells, which sufficed them earlier. “All the farmers have their own wells. They had taken loans to build these wells as it was necessary for us. Earlier our ancestors used the water for the entire year from five acres of land. Now we are barely able to get good produce from two acres of land,” Pandhare said.
Ajit Patil, a former sarpanch, said, “Farmers have switched to sowing crops that can be harvested in eight months. On the right side of the village from Pune, which is closer to these tunnels, farmers can grow sugarcane, but farmers in Kazad, which falls on the left side, do not have enough water to do so.”