Over half of the country's 71 major water reservoirs have less than 30 per cent water storage, threatening the collapse of the canal irrigation system in rain-deficient areas where standing crops are facing moisture stress.
Besides, it could also adversely affect hydel power production, it is feared. While 10 reservoirs are left with no water for irrigation, nine others are on the verge of attaining that position in the next few days if the lull in the monsoon continues unabated. These dams, at present, have only five to 10 per cent water storage.
On the whole, water storage in 38 of the total 71 reservoirs is below one-third capacity. About 19 others are less than half-full. Merely 14 reservoirs are over half-full.
Some of the important multipurpose projects where the storage levels have already turned precarious or are close to being so include Gobind Sagar (Bhakra), Pong dam, Nagarjuna Sagar and Rana Pratap Sagar apart from a few others.
According to the Central Water Commission which monitors water level in the country's major reservoirs, the total water available on July 23 was 28.47 billion cubic metres (BCM). This is merely 22 per cent of these dams' total water storage capacity of 131.28 BCM.
This is about 66 per cent of the last 10 year's average water storage at this time of the year. The reservoirs which have already run out of water include Gandhi Sagar in MP Jayakwadi, Bhima and Yeldari in Maharashtra, Machkund in Orissa, Ram Ganga in UP, Sabarmati in Gujarat, Sriramsagar in AP, and Panchet Hill in Jharkhand.
Cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi held consultations with chief secretaries about gearing up for a possible drought scenario due to uncertainty over monsoon in eight states, including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra.
According to sources, the government is taking all steps to face up to the challenge though it is still too early to declare this year a drought year.
The agriculture secretary is already touring Maharashtra and Rajasthan to get first hand information.
The Centre has assured all assistance to the affected states and promised quick release of funds for the purpose.
Contingency crop planning and other emergency measures were discussed at the meeting. Those who met the Cabinet Secretary were Rajasthan Chief Secretary RK Nair, Andhra Pradesh chief secretary Mohan Kanda, Gujarat chief secretary PK Lahiri, Haryana chief secretary Sunil Ahuja, Punjab chief secretary JS Gill, Maharashtra chief secretary AK Mago, Madhya Pradesh chief secretary BK Saha and Uttar Pradesh chief secretary VK Mittal.
Senior agriculture officials and secretaries concerned from various ministries also participated in the consultations.