Moving IPL’s Matches Won’t Fix Maharashtra’s Drought – At All

60 lakh litres of water wouldn’t even make a dent in the drought faced by more than 27,000 Maharashtran villages. 

2 min read
The first IPL match will be played in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court ruled Thursday. (Photo: Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

A grain of rice or a spoonful of sugar may not look like much, but litres of water went into making sure they land in the plates and mugs of people across the country. These crops pose a bigger problem for Maharashtra’s drought than the IPL tournament will.

This week, the Board of Control for Cricket in India faced criticism for holding the Indian Premier League’s 20 matches in Maharashtra. A Public Interest Litigation filed against the organisation claimed that the stadiums used to house the matches will guzzle 60 lakh litres of water – a substantial amount in the water-starved state.

For two years, many parts of Maharashtra have faced severe water shortages. More than half of the state’s 43,665 villages were declared to be in a state of drought.

Petitioners told the Bombay High Court that water use for recreational purposes should not be a priority. But while 60 lakh litres could be used in other parts of the state, it would barely scratch the surface of the drought.

Data from <a href="">IndiaSpend</a> and <a href="">Census of India</a> (Infographic: Rahul Gupta)
Data from IndiaSpend and Census of India (Infographic: Rahul Gupta)

For Maharashtra’s farmers, the drought has been devastating. In 2015, almost nine farmers committed suicide a day, according to data from IndiaSpend.

Factors like climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon contribute to the drought, but agricultural practices are also drying up the state’s wells. Sugarcane and rice are among the most common crops in Maharashtra and each crop absorbs a lot of water.

Reducing how much water these crops need could help farmers cope with drought, studies show.

The amount of water that goes into a day’s worth of sugar and rice is way higher than the water that will be used for IPL stadiums. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta)
The amount of water that goes into a day’s worth of sugar and rice is way higher than the water that will be used for IPL stadiums. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta)

On average, urban-dwellers eat around 4.5 kilograms of rice per month, according to the National Sample Survey. For every kilo of rice produced, 3,500 litres of water is required. Around 131 crore litres of water go into one day’s worth of rice for 2.5 million people, which is roughly 20 percent of Mumbai’s population.

Similarly, around 10,000 kilograms of sugar are stirred into tea daily for 2.5 million people in Mumbai. Those 10,000 kilos require a total of 1.5 crore litres of water.

Tackling the problem at the source – agriculture – could take some of the pressure off Maharashtra’s limited water supplies.

Under the depleting groundwater scenario, productivity of high water requiring crops like sugarcane can only be sustained using technologies economizing water and cultivating sugarcane varieties with relatively lesser water requirement.
Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research

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