HYDERABAD: Farmers living on the fringes of the city are increasingly resorting to selling groundwater as their crops are yielding poor returns, a study has found.The study, ‘Whose water? Whose profits? The role of informal water markets in groundwater depletion in peri-urban Hyderabad’, by scholars from IIT Guwahati and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, found that factors such as land acquisition for infrastructure, sporadic rainfall coupled with droughts, and lack of a market for agriculture produce were forcing farmers to shift to alternative occupations.
The issue can be traced back to the early 2000s, when for the construction of the ORR, a huge chunk of agricultural land had to be forfeited to the government. “Farmers were compensated with two-three plots of land elsewhere,” the study said. But these lands were too small for intensive farming. Hence, farmers dug borewells and started selling water.
“Water operators of Kokapet have been selling large amounts of water to various multinational companies in Hitec City, an ultra-modern urban centre in Hyderabad. For recreational purposes, the establishment of an amusement park has created a demand for groundwater from Adibatla village, and the water is supplied to the park through tankers,” the study said.
Political power also played its part in the extraction of water, the study added. In Kokapet and Adibatla, it was local politicians and authorities who interacted with private water sellers. As a result of these operations, villagers have been facing water shortages for both irrigation and household consumption, the study said. “The informal water markets become most exploitative when peri-urban dwellers have to buy their own water and sometimes have to pay the same price as urban residents are offering,” it added.