ANANTAPUR: More than 600 villages in the district are facing acute water shortage. In just 25 days from May 30, the number of villages reeling under water crisis shot up to 644 from 600, forcing the Rural Water Services Department to operate more tankers, said groundwater department.
Around 5.26 lakh people are being provided water through tankers, as groundwater levels in Anantapur – one of the nine districts in the State identified as water-stressed by the Central government – are depleting day by day.
As on 8 pm on July 1, the groundwater levels in the district plummeted to 25.95 metres below ground, 6.94 metres deeper than what it was during the corresponding period last year. The district has also recorded a rainfall deficit of 26.20 per cent. According to groundwater officials, the situation has acquired an alarming proportion in 36 mandals in the district. For instance, one of the mandals, Gummaghatta is the worst affected with the water level plunging to a depth of 175 feet.
“Water levels, especially in 26 mandals of the district, are depleting at an alarming rate. There has been an over-exploitation of 21 of water resources. Measures are being initiated to manage available water resources. Orders have been issued to rejuvenate river Jayamangala in Parigi mandal and expedite afforestation programme,” said district collector S Satyanarayana.
Stressing the need for campaigning to address the issue, the collector added the Jal Shakti Abhiyan taken up by the Centre would help in rejuvenating water bodies.
According to irrigation department officials, as many as 1,355 of 1,481 large tanks in the district have dried up. Only 23 tanks have 75-100 per cent water and 59 tanks have less than 25 per cent.
Though the previous government had assured to fill 800 tanks with water from Handri-Neeva Sujala Sravanthi and High Level Canal of Tungabhadra last year, no steps were taken to implement the promise.
On the contrary, the district was placed on the top spot among southern states in the groundwater recharge category of National Water Awards, 2018.
With the construction of 27,111 farm ponds in 2017-18, the district now has more than 1 lakh of these structures to harvest rainwater. As many as 1,618 check dams were constructed under NREGA scheme and Integrated Watershed Management Programme; 1,051 percolation tanks were built under Neeru-Chettu. Anantapur also has 3,573 recharge pits, along with 77 injection wells to directly recharge aquifers. As much as 156.59 lakh cubic meters of tank desilting was done, and 5,676 ponds and Kunta were developed.
These efforts helped the district recharge 11.67 TMC of groundwater, helping as many as 1.04 lakh acres with irrigation water. 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 year 2017-18, and the situation has since worsened.