The ‘water train’ dispatched by Indian Railways as a humanitarian gesture for the parched Latur district in Maharashtra, carrying around 550,000 litres of drinking water, reached the destination, officials said.
The Indian Railways dispatched the 10-wagon train carrying the precious resource from Miraj in western Maharashtra for Latur city in the Marathwada region.
The train, that reached Latur around 4 am after covering a 375 km journey, was welcomed amid loud cheers by Latur Mayor, top civil and police officials. Security was tight around the railway station.
The offloading of the water began at a dried up well belonging to a local farmer near the railway station, after which it will be transported by pipes to a filtration plant.
After filtering and making the water potable, it will be sent to the distressed villages in tankers. Mile long queues of multi-coloured plastic and steel buckets, pots and pitchers have already sprung up in remote areas in anticipation of water.
The initiative was taken by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu as many parts of his home state are reeling under severe water crises. The worst hit are villages in Latur district, which has a population of around 2.45 crores.
Following Prabhu’s directives, 50 tank wagons, similar to the ones used to transport oil and milk, were sent to Kota workshop (Rajasthan) where they were cleaned and prepared for carrying the water to Latur.
The Railways is planning to make few more trips to quench the thirst of Latur, the schedules of which are yet to be finalised.
Currently, around 15,000 villages in the state, a majority of them in Latur, Beed and Osmanabad district, are gripped by an acute water shortage.
To combat water riots, police have imposed prohibitory orders till May 3 in many parts of the western state. Armed guards have been deployed near public water storage tanks and reservoirs to prevent theft and violence.
Similarly, villagers in some areas trek more than two kms daily for a pot of water and keep their domestic water stocks under lock-and-key, schools have been shut down, marriages and other social events have been cancelled or postponed and agriculture activities at a complete standstill.