VIJAYAWADA: People of Anantapur, which bagged the top rank among districts in South India in the Groundwater Recharge category of National Water Awards 2018 recently, is now staring at one of the worst drinking water crises this summer.
The groundwater level in the district as per the data provided in CM CORE dashboard as on date stood at 23.38 metres below the ground when compared to 18.21 metres below the ground for the same day last year.
Though the situation in Anantapur is not as bad as that of neighbouring Chittoor district where groundwater has dipped to 24.79 metres from 14.09 metres below the ground level for the corresponding period last year, experts and even groundwater department officials predict a grim situation in the summer as they fear further depletion of groundwater.
A study carried out by IIT Gandhinagar recently found that 50 per cent of the country is facing drought and the situation in 16 per cent area is alarming.
Southern Andhra Pradesh (Rayalaseema) was mentioned as one of the regions facing acute drought.With officials of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasting longer heat wave conditions in the State, the drinking water situation in Anantapur district and other parts of Rayalaseema looks grim.
When contacted by TNIE, the first thing the groundwater department deputy director Purushotham Reddy said was: “Let me first clarify the award we received was for the water year 2017-18. The groundwater situation in that water year and the current year is different. Due to over 44 percent deficit rainfall this year, the groundwater situation has worsened and I fear it could be even worse in the coming days.”
A water year is the period from May in one particular year to May in the subsequent year, while the difference in groundwater level is calculated based on the data recorded between the pre-monsoon period (May) and a post-monsoon period (November).
According to Purushotham Reddy, the groundwater level before monsoon (May 2017) was 26.21 metres below ground level and after monsoon (November 2017) was 18.85 metres. “The rise of 7.36 metres in the groundwater level was due to the combined effect of natural recharge and rainwater harvesting structures as observed in 150 piezometers in the district,” he explained.
During 2017-18, the construction of farm ponds in the district crossed one lakh mark with an additional 27,111 farm ponds having been added under NREGS. A total of 1,618 check dams were constructed under NREGS and IWMP watershed, 1,051 percolation tanks were constructed under Neeru-Chettu programme, 3,573 recharge pits/trenches were constructed, while 77 injection wells were constructed to directly recharge the aquifer. Over 156.59 lakh cubic metres of tank desilting was done and 5,676 ponds and kuntas were developed.
The efforts helped the district get a total of 11.67 TMC of groundwater recharge under various rainwater harvesting structures and as many as 41,885 borewells got recharged, creating indirect irrigation for as many as 1.04 lakh acres. Besides, Krishna river water from Srisailam backwater through the HNSS canal also helped the district get 25.952 TMC of water.
However, all those efforts and benefits were limited to the water year 2017-18 and, in the current water year, the situation has turned worse. The main reason for the crisis is deficit rainfall, which is nearly 45 percent as on today. Though water from Srisailam backwater was fed to various water bodies in the district through HNSS canals, the effect is limited.
“What use will be of rainwater harvesting structures in the district, if there is no rain. Anantapur district continues to remain the victim of the vagaries of nature,” said groundwater expert from RDT Trust Malla Reddy. He said in the coming days the district is going to face a worse water crisis.
Ajje Pothulalaih, a farmer from Garudampalle in Dharmavaram mandal, said there was some rain in July and August, but that was not of much help as most of the crop was rainfed. Now, only four or five farmers in our village have some water and they may exhaust anytime now. Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham district president R Chandrasekhar said drought situation in 16 mandals of the district is a bitter fact.
When contacted, Rural Water Schemes SE P Hareram Naik said they have taken measures to address the water crisis.
Once-in-10 days water supply in Hindupur
In an indication of things to come, Hindupur municipality in Anantapur district is already facing a severe crisis with people getting drinking water once in 10 days. The residents are forced to buy each water can at Rs 8- Rs 10.