Tuesday, 16 April 2019

M’rashtra tops in HIV-related deaths in ’18-19

National AIDS Control Organisation officials, however, said any increase in HIV deaths in Maharashtra should be viewed against the fact that it has the highest number of people living with HIV (PLHIV). “Andhra Pradesh used to have the highest number, but it has now split. It is not, hence, surprising that Maharashtra now has the largest numbers,” said NACO’s Dr Manish Bamrotiya. “We used to have 10.5 PLHIVs on medications until two years ago, but the number has increased to 13 lakh now,” he added.
In the last two years, NACO started Mission Sampark to locate PLHIVs who were lost. “We found out about deaths that had not been reported to the authorities. Some of these deaths were perhaps added to the overall numbers at a later date, leading to an increase in the number of deaths,” said a senior government official. He added the HMIS data is mainly drawn from hospitals and is primary. The data from AIDS Control Societies such as MSACS (Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society) and MDACS (Mumbai District AIDS Control Society) is more refined and studied.
Officials of Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), which oversees the implementation of HIV\AIDS control programme in the state, refuted the data. “We have spoken to HMIS officials about this data. The urban-rural divide seems incorrect as far as Maharashtra is concerned,’’ said MSACS joint programme director Dr Pramod Deoraj. Dr Srikala Achraya of MDACS said urban centres had testing centres and field reporting systems that helped early detection and reduced the chance of death.

Farm ponds that dot parched Marathwada may deplete groundwater in the long run

Filling From Wells Likely To Drain Precious Resource

A patchwork of brown fields is visible from the air as you fly into this drought-hit region in rural Maharashtra. But amid the dry land is a growing mosaic of blue and brown squares and rectangles.
These are farm ponds: Large earthen structures that have spread across rural Maharashtra in the past five years, thanks to a raft of central and state subsidies.
The ponds were conceived to catch and store rainwater, and are especially useful for fruits such as grapes that require year-round irrigation, But as they have proliferated on a large scale, and are often filled from wells, experts have become concerned about their long-term effect on groundwater levels.
“Farm ponds have some value for irrigation,” said Eshwar Kale of the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR). “But they can lead to privatization of water by a few and, on a large scale, these schemes take no account of the carrying capacity of the watershed.”
Pond numbers have shot up since 2016, when the state’s Farm Pond on Demand Scheme began offering up to Rs 50,000 reimbursement to eligible farmers. Close to 1.2 lakh ponds have been built under the scheme so far (more than three lakh farmers applied for it) at a cost of around Rs 540 crore.
Thousands more have been built under other schemes over the years, including the National Horticulture Mission and still more have been set up privately, for which there is no data. Near Aurangabad, for instance, a prosperous farmer with 12 acres along the highway has two plastic-lined full ponds—one that he funded himself and another with a government subsidy.
Studies from institutions such as the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics have found that while these ponds benefit individual farmers, allowing them to grow high-value crops, they also favour larger famers who have access to water, capital to invest, and adequate land; Maharashtra’s scheme requires farm sizes of at least 1.5 acres.
Many farmers also line their ponds with plastic and fill them from borewells, not rainfall runoff.
On a large scale, this may result in over-exploitation of groundwater resources, says C P Bhoyar, chief scientist at the Groundwater Survey & Development Agency. With 30% evaporation rates, storing water above the ground also results in huge water loss, he adds.
The agency considers farm ponds a supplementary irrigation tool and not a water conservation or ground recharge measure. “If you put a plastic lining, there is no percolation,” says Bhoyar.
Groundwater levels are depleting in central Maharashtra, with more than three metres decline seen in some parts of Marathwada in September compared with the previous five-year average.
On the ground, benefits of farm ponds are clear. Bharath Aher, a farmer in Aurangabad district, said his farm pond had helped him switch to high-value grapes a few years ago—and saved his crop despite the current drought. “With the water I’ve stored, I can at least break even,” he said.
And Kadvanchi, a muchcelebrated farm-pond village north of Jalna city, has prospered with grape farming.
Bungalows are sprouting in this hamlet of 650 ponds.
Yet, Kadvanchi’s green farms are an oasis in a desert of brown fields, highlighting the inequities of this district. Poorer villages in Jalna don’t have any ponds—they lack the money to front the cost of construction, let alone invest in drip irrigation, or they have insufficient land.
Kadvanchi has had other advantages too, including sustained help from the local Krishi Vignya Kendra. Its location near a ridge also makes it easier to trap rainfall runoff from the streams. By contrast, many farm ponds without good water sources are dry in this region.
Nearby villages complain Kadvanchi is capturing all the water, which the sarpanch denies. Some have started building their own ponds.
Competitive extraction is a real risk, says Pooja Prasad, a researcher at IIT-Bombay who studied the issue in Nashik. “Because you know that if you don’t extract and store the water, others will.”
In times of scarcity, ponds can also pit irrigation requirements against drinking water needs, she notes. Even with gleaming blue ponds in their midst, Kadvanchi and other villages are buying water tankers in March. Irrigation uses 85% of groundwater in the state.
A modelling exercise by Prasad and IIT-Bombay professor Milind Sohoni suggests that that farm ponds bring prosperity only as long as the numbers are limited in line with the hydrology of the region. “If farmers continue to build new farm ponds and grow orchards beyond this limit in an unregulated manner, it will create a vicious circle,” says their report.
Current incentives are likely to “drive farmers to invest in farm ponds even as the groundwater depletes to dangerous levels,” they write, calling for greater regulation.
“Market forces alone will not be sufficient to ensure that this threshold is respected,” says Prasad.