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RAIN-SHADOW EFFECT & MAHARASHTRA’S WATER CRISIS



  Jun 27, 2024

RAIN-SHADOW EFFECT & MAHARASHTRA’S WATER CRISIS



Understanding the Rain-Shadow Effect

The rain-shadow effect plays a significant role in shaping the climate and water availability in different regions of Maharashtra. Marathwada, in particular, is heavily influenced by this phenomenon.

What is the Rain-Shadow Effect?

The rain-shadow effect occurs when moist winds from the Arabian Sea encounter the Western Ghats. As these winds rise over the mountains, they cool and release heavy rainfall on the western side of the Ghats (receiving between 2,000-4,000 mm of rainfall). However, as these winds descend on the eastern side, including Marathwada, they lose most of their moisture, resulting in significantly reduced rainfall (600-800 mm).

Impact on Marathwada

Marathwada’s position in the rain-shadow region leads to chronic water scarcity. This situation is exacerbated by the region’s agricultural practices, soil type, and topography:

• Agricultural Practices: The cultivation of water-intensive crops like sugarcane, which requires 1,500-2,500 mm of water during its growing season, is particularly problematic in a low-rainfall area like Marathwada. Sugarcane occupies only 4% of the total cropped area but consumes 61% of the irrigation water, greatly contributing to the region’s water crisis.
• Soil Type: The region’s clayey black soil, known as “regur,” retains moisture well but has a low infiltration rate. This leads to waterlogging and runoff rather than groundwater recharge. The high runoff is managed by building numerous dams, making Maharashtra the state with the most large dams in India (1,845).
• Topography: The presence of parallel tributaries of the Godavari and Krishna rivers, flowing southeast, creates a natural variance in water availability. Valleys have perennial groundwater, while uplands suffer from seasonal scarcity. Wells in upland areas dry up a few months after the monsoons, leading to acute water shortages.

Solutions for Water Resilience

To address the water crisis in Marathwada, supply-side solutions and demand management practices are essential:

1. Watershed Management: Building water-conserving structures like contour trenches, earthen bunds, and gully plugs to capture runoff and prevent soil erosion.
2. Silt Management: Utilizing funds from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to design silt-trapping mechanisms and train farmers on desilting practices.
3. Water-Efficient Irrigation: Promoting irrigation techniques that use water more efficiently.
4. Crop Diversification: Encouraging the cultivation of drought-resistant and low-water-using crops instead of water-intensive crops like sugarcane.
5. Relocation of Sugarcane Cultivation: Shifting sugarcane production to states with higher rainfall such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

Conclusion

The rain-shadow effect significantly impacts water availability in Marathwada, exacerbating the region’s water crisis. Implementing supply-side solutions and managing water demand through efficient practices and crop diversification can help Marathwada become more water-resilient.


SRIRAM’s


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