The Maharashtra government may disallow cultivation and crushing of sugarcane this year owing to the severe water shortage in Marathwada and the western regions, state relief and rehabilitation minister Eknath Khadse has said.
There are 86 sugar mills in the drought-affected regions.
The water resource department has further suggested not permitting any new sugar mills in these regions.
Osmanabad, Latur, Beed, parts of Ahmednagar and Solapur and Sangli districts are facing a severe shortage of drinking water.
"Our priority is to save human lives and cattle first, followed by agriculture and industries. Thus we have issued an order to reserve water stock of all irrigation projects and minor sources for drinking purpose only," Khadse said.
"We are considering not to allow cultivation and crushing of sugarcane crop as it requires huge quantity of water," he said.
Though a final decision is yet to be taken, Khadse said the issue will be discussed in the state cabinet.
"The cabinet will take a final call, but we have no other alternative to overcome the drought situation in Marathwada," he said.
Meanwhile, a report on water resources in Godavari basin, prepared by experts and officials from the water resource department, has recommended not to permit any new sugar mills in Marathwada and North Maharashtra region.
The report and its recommendation are yet to be accepted by the Water Control Authority, the supreme body having the right on the way of usage and distribution of water to industries, agriculture and household purposes.
The state is also considering providing drinking water to Latur from Pandharpur through railway wagons.