Citizens' Issues
Farmer suicides averaged 9 a day in parched Maharashtra
A staggering 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, the highest since 2001, according to data tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 4, 2016 – that is almost nine farmers every day.
 
The number of suicides almost equal the number of people killed (3,477) by the Taliban in 2014, IndiaSpend had reported earlier.
 
Vidarbha and Marathwada, with 5.7 million farmers, accounted for 83 percent of all farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2015.
 
Maharashtra is divided into five geographical regions, comprising six administrative divisions — Konkan, Pune, Nashik, Marathwada (Aurangabad) and Vidarbha (Amravati and Nagpur).
 
The Vidarbha region reported the most farmer suicides, 1,541, in 2015. Nagpur (362) and Amravati (1,179) witnessed the maximum farmer suicides in the Vidarbha region.
 
Vidarbha was followed by Aurangabad (1,130) that forms the Marathwada region.
 
As many as 89 farmers ended their lives in Marathwada in January this year. The Farmers Distress Management Task Force, appointed by the state government, blamed the deaths on the “collective failure of government officials”.
 
Farmer suicides averaged 15 a day in 2014
 
As many as 5,650 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2014, or 15 farmers a day, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
 
The top five major causes of farmer suicides in 2014 were bankruptcy or indebtedness (1,163), family problems (1,135), farming-related issues (969) – such as failure of crops, distress due to natural calamities, inability to sell produce, illness (745) and drug abuse and/alcoholic addiction (250).
 
Bankruptcy or indebtedness was also a major cause for farmer suicides (857) in Maharashtra in 2014.
 
Bankruptcy or indebtedness from crop loans accounted for 765 deaths, followed by non-agricultural loans (76) and equipment loans (16).
 
The estimated average amount of outstanding loan per agricultural household in Maharashtra was Rs 54,700, above the national average of Rs 47,000/-, based on the Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households during January-December 2013 by the National Sample Survey Organisation of the Ministry of Statistics.
 
Bankruptcy was followed by family problems (671), farming-related issues (352), illness (241) and drug abuse/alcoholic addiction (173) among the top five causes for farmer suicides in Maharashtra.
 
Five states account for 89 percent of Indian farmer suicides
 
Of the 5,650 farmers who committed suicide in 2014, 66 percent (3,712) were between 30 and 60 years of age, while 23 percent (1,300) were 18 to 30 years old.
 
Maharashtra reported the most (2,568) farmer suicides, in 2014, followed by Telangana (898), Madhya Pradesh (826), Chhattisgarh (443) and Karnataka (321).
 
These top five states account for 89 percent of all farmer suicides in the country in 2014. With a hard year ahead, those figures are unlikely to improve.
 
As worst water crisis in decade unfolds, farmers will struggle
 
India is facing the worst water crisis in a decade with 91 major reservoirs having no more than 29 percent water, IndiaSpend reported recently.
 
Jayakwadi dam in Aurangabad district in Marathwada, which is witnessing the worst drought in a century, has only one percent water left of its 2.17 billion cubic metre capacity, IndiaSpend reported in January.
 
As many as 246 districts in 10states across the country have already been declared drought-affected in 2015-16, according to this Lok Sabha reply on March 10, 2016.
 
Of these, 21 districts in Maharashtra, or 15,747 villages, are drought-affected.
 
The Maharashtra government recently declared 11,962 villages in Vidarbha as drought-affected, according to this Mint report. So 27,723 villages of 43,000 Maharashtra villages in the state are drought-hit.
 
“The drought in Vidarbha is more of an agriculture drought and not hydrological. In Marathwada, it is both agriculture and hydrological,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. “The government has allocated Rs 1,000 crore for immediate relief measures in these villages and more funds will be provided after assessment of losses.”

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Low availability, growing demand pose water challenges for Indians
New Delhi : India faces major challenges in the water sector with the per capita availability going down and demand growing due to urbanisation and industralisation.
 
Inefficiency of water use in agriculture, over-exploitation of underground water and contamination are other issues associated with water management in the country.
 
India receives average rainfall of about 1,170 mm which corresponds to an annual precipitation of about 4,000 BCM (billion cubic metres) including snowfall. However, there is considerable variation in rainfall both temporally and spatially.
 
Nearly 75 percent of the annual precipitation occurs during the monsoon season between June and September. After accounting for evaporation, the average annual water availability in the country has been assessed as 1,869 BCM. It has been estimated that owing to topographic, hydrological and other constraints, the utilisable water is 1,123 BCM which includes 690 BCM of surface water and 433 BCM of replenishable ground water.
 
Since the amount of water available is more or less constant, rising demands due to increasing population and economic growth are expected to strain the demand-supply balance.
 
According to a report by the 2030 Water Resources Group, India's water requirement will be about 1,498 BCM in 2030, which is double of the estimated aggregate water demand at present. But water balances for the country as a whole are of limited value since they hide the existence of areas of acute water shortage and do not reflect problems of quality.
 
The twin indicators of water scarcity are per capita availability and storage. India's population has increased from 361 million in 1951 to 1.21 billion in 2011 and the per capita availability of water for the country as a whole has decreased from 5,177 cubic metres per annum in 1951 to 1,545 cubic metres per annum in 2011, a reduction of about 70 percent.
 
This meets the definition of a water-stressed condition - per capita availability of less than 1,700 cubic metres. The average per capita availability was 1,816 cubic metres according to 2001 census.
 
Nine out of 20 river basins, with an estimated population of 200 milllion, are estimated to be facing water scarcity conditions.
 
The per capita water storage capacity in India has been assessed at 209 cubic metres while it has been estimated at 5,686 cubic metres in Russia, 3223 cubic metres in Australia, 416 cubic metres in China and 2,192 cubic metres in the United States.
 
The annual extraction of groundwater in the country is by far the highest in the world and the growing dependence on this has led to over-extraction, which is lowering the water table in many parts of the country.
 
The annual ground water withdrawal for domestic and industrial purpose is estimated at 9.27 percent while it is estimated at 90.73 percent for irrigation.
 
According to official data, around 84 per cent of the total addition to the net irrigated area has come from groundwater over the last four decades. With an estimated 30 million groundwater structures in play, groundwater is being exploited beyond sustainable levels.
 
A NASA assessment showed that between 2002 and 2008, India recorded a decline in the water table to the extent of 0.33 metres per annum.
 
The ground water monitoring data of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) for pre-monsoon 2014, compared with decadal mean of pre-monsoon (2004-2013), showed that out of total wells analyzed, around 39 percent showed a decline in the ground water level. According to an assessment done in 2011, nearly a sixth of the 6,607 assessment units (blocks/ mandals/ talukas/ districts) across 15 states and two union territories have been categorised as "over-exploited".
 
Also, water use efficiency in agriculture, which consumes around 80 percent of water resources, is estimated at around 38 percent, which compares poorly with 45 percent in Malaysia and Morocco and 50-60 percent in Israel, Japan, China and Taiwan.
 
Ground water quality data monitored by the CGWB shows that the ground water in parts of 20 states is contaminated by fluoride and in 21 states by nitrate in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
 
Organic pollution has been identified as a predominant cause of water pollution. The Central Pollution Control Board has assessed the total volume of municipal waste water generated in the country at 61,948 MLD (million litres per day) against the installed sewage treatment capacity of 23,277 MLD - leaving a gap of more than 38,671 MLD.
 
India's urban population has grown from 27.8 percent, according to 2001 census, to 32.16 percent, as per the 2011 census.
 
The National Water Policy, released in 2012, calls for planning and management of water resources through common integrated perspective considering regional and national context and on an environmentally sound basis.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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20 million drink arsenic-laced water in Bangladesh: Report
Dhaka : The Bangladesh government is failing to adequately respond to naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water across large areas of rural Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. Some 20 million people still drink contaminated water.
 
A 111-page report documents how Bangladesh’s health system largely ignores the impact of exposure to arsenic on people’s health. An estimated 43,000 people die each year from arsenic-related illness in Bangladesh, according to one study. 
 
The government identifies people with arsenic-related illnesses primarily via skin lesions, although the vast majority of those with arsenic-related illnesses don’t develop them, Human Rights Watch said. 
 
Those exposed are at significant risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and lung disease but many receive no health care at all, it said.
 
“Bangladesh isn’t taking basic, obvious steps to get arsenic out of the drinking water of millions of its rural poor,” said Richard Pearshouse of Human Rights Watch and author of the report. 
 
“Unless the government and Bangladesh’s international donors do more, millions of Bangladeshis will die from preventable arsenic-related diseases,” he said.
 
Arsenic is found in water from hand-pumped, mostly shallow, tube wells across huge swaths of rural Bangladesh. 
 
Although deep wells can often reach groundwater of better quality, government programmes to install new wells don’t make it a priority to install them in areas where the risk of arsenic contamination is relatively high.
 
Human Rights Watch also found a serious lack of monitoring and quality control in arsenic mitigation projects. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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