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India: Persistent droughts threaten mosambi orchards in Marathwada

Persistent droughts may mean that mosambi orchards (Citrus limetta) in Marathwada could be on the verge of extinction.  Farmers in the village of Aurangabad -350 km from Mumbai- set their orchards on fire to register their protest.

Maharashtra is currently suffering from acute water shortage and one of the most severe droughts since 1972. Forty-two% of the state's districts have been hit by drought, and the Marathwada region is among the worst hit with 40% of its 112 administrative districts suffering from severe water crisis. By the end of September 2018, Jayakwadi dam, which is considered the lifeline of Marathwada, was 46% water full. At the same time the previous year, it was 88%. The scarcity would only intensify and pinch more, heading into the summers.

In a situation like that, it becomes particularly difficult to maintain fruit orchards of sweet lime (mosambi), pomegranates, orange and so on. Aurangabad, the headquarters of Marathwada, is one of the major cultivators of mosambi, along with the districts of Jalna and Nanded. These districts have traditionally been among the foremost suppliers of the fruit to the rest of the country. But consistent droughts may mean that mosambi orchards in Marathwada could be on the path of extinction.

According to¸ most of the orchards in Marathwada came up in the early 2000s. The trees need to be nurtured for four to five years before it bears fruit, but after that a biannual yield is assured for 25-30 years.

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