CHENNAI: Every Thursday, the Central Water Commission (CWC) puts out data on the water available in 91 reservoirs around the country. In the summer every year, the data paint a pretty bleak picture, with storage numbers plummeting even as the temperature rises.
Last Thursday, the 91 monitored reservoirs of the nation, held only 32 per cent of their capacity, a bit worse than last year, when it was 33 per cent in the corresponding week. While reservoirs in the East, West, North and Central India more or less held their normal share of water for this time of the year, it’s the south that’s sizzling this summer.
While reservoirs in those parts of the country held on to at least a quarter of their capacity, storage in the south has dipped to 13 per cent. That’s worse than the 16 per cent storage recorded in the first week of April last year. Other facts underline the seriousness of the situation across the south Indian states.
As per the 10-year average, storage in the south’s 31 monitored rivers in the first week of April ought to have been 25 per cent. In reality, it has dipped to 13 per cent and threatens to slip into the single digits as temperatures soar, as the dog days are yet to arrive.
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Among the southern states, only Telangana is better off than last year, perhaps on account of the investment, the State government has made in repairing its 10,000 village tanks and therefore needing to draw less from its major reservoirs.
Another stat in the CWD bulletin reflects the diminishing water availability in the peninsula’s rivers: Of all the river basins of India, storage in the Cauvery and Krishna valleys has the highest negative departure from the 10-year normal. In the Cauvery’s case, it’s minus 70.88 per cent and in the over-dammed Krishna it is down by 57 per cent.
Of the 91 reservoirs monitored by CWC, the readings for three are zero, and all of them are in the south: Almatti in Karnataka, Sholayar in Tamil Nadu and Nagarjunasagar, a reservoir shared by AP and Telangana. The last named is the biggest masonry dam in the world and its present emptiness tells a tale.
Twenty-four dams around the country have less than half the water that they are supposed to hold at this time of the year, as per the 10-year average.
Of them, 18 are in the south. These include some iconic ‘modern temples’: the aforesaid Nagarjunasagar, Mettur, Almatti, Kabini, Krishnarajasagar, Periyar, Vaigai, Somasila, Srisailam.