HYDERABAD: Last year, more than 300 people died of heat-related complications in May-June before the monsoon winds brought relief. Alongside this natural disaster –which cannot be classified as a natural disaster as per disaster relief norms – hundreds of farmers committed suicide in Telangana, in a macabre double blow.
This year, when temperatures in Hyderabad touched 40 in late March, hearts are trembling in the administration. Could this year be worse? The heat wave monitors have already toted up more than 80 deaths so far. The figures are contested by the administration, citing differences over definitions, but the truth is out there in the sun. The signs are ominous: This year’s first heat wave warning is already out, earlier than usual as temperatures in Adilabad, Hyderabad and Ramagundam have already breached last year’s levels. The Greater Hyderabad area is in the throes of its worst-ever water crisis with its four captive sources drying up and its two main river-based water systems, the three phases of the Krishna and the one phase of the Godavari, are functioning at reduced levels.
Hyderabad’s four captive reservoirs – Singur, Manjira, Himayatsagar and Osmansagar – which used to meet 40-50 per cent of the city’s drinking water needs, have all reached dead storage levels, and supplies stopped more than a month ago. The Telangana government or the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board have no alternate plans to tide over the summer. If the rains are delayed past mid-July, there is disaster ahead. Hyderabad gets the first turn at the tap as far as water supply is concerned. Protests by local people that ‘their water’ is being supplied to the city are rarely heard above the din in the media. Hyderabad is so consumed by its own crisis that it does not hear these protests. Out in the wider state, the districts are pockmarked with thousands of defunct borewells but villagers are frantic in trying to dig new ones.
The Big Dry has come as a boon to packaged water companies though with more than 60-70 per cent of the people turning to ‘mineral’ water in droves. In Telangana, there are at least 7,000 mineral water plants, of which only 113 are BIS certified. T S Phanish, manager of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Package Drinking Water Manufactures Association, said there has been an increase in the number of illegal companies this year.
With the water crisis raging, CM K Chandrasekhar Rao has given out the diktat to his minister not to go missing from their constituencies. So, all ministers and MLAs will be in the tank beds sweating it out.
The situation in Andhra Pradesh is no different
Last year, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh endured a withering heat wave in May, which took more than 400 lives in each State. As a barometer of distress, water levels in all but one or two reservoirs last year were at dead storage level in May. This year, they have already plumbed new depths in mid-April