ADILABAD: One of the hottest districts in Telangana, Adilabad has recorded 11 sunstroke deaths so far. Five lakh ORS pockets have been distributed in all mandal hospitals and primary health centres. The heat is really beginning to soar with 44.6 degrees C recorded on Saturday.
With the district receiving scanty raingall, farmers are facing problem in providing foidder and water to the cattle and are forced to sell them to slaughter houses. This has increased since the start of April, a farmer said. However, animal husbandry officials said presently there is no problem in providing water and fodder to livestock.
He said the water scarcity villagers were identified and water is supplied through tankers. He said 40,000 metric tonnes of fodder is available for this rabi season.
The ghosala at Rampur village is self sufficient when it comes to fodder but water problem is persisting. In Echoda, local youth are running a ghosala and are asking farmers to deposit their cattle wtih them rather than selling them to slaughter houses.
Digging of borewells are increased in the district even as the administration announced that borewells should be dug only in emergency cases.
Temperatures have touched 42 degrees Celsius, with the prospect of going higher in the days ahead, especially in the coal mining town of Kothagudem. As last year’s monsoon was poor, hundreds of borewells have dried up and the water level in the Wyra reservoir is down to 7 ft against the maximum mark of 18.3 ft.
The administration says it’s geared up for the dog days. While in the coal belt, there is the public sector Singareni Collieries to take care of the miner community, it is in the tribal areas of Bhadrachalam that the water scarcity is likely to have its worst impact. The administration does not quite reach into every village there and tribal people are left to their own devices.
There are 60 primary health centres (PHCs), the first point of call for heat wave casualties, in the district. The administration says they have a stock of nine lakh oral rehydration sachets (ORS) and 30,000 cartons of sodium lactate ready to be shipped where needed. At labour addas, where workers congregate every day to find work, tents have been pitched as shelters from the sun and ORS sachets kept ready.
This district has 1600 habitations, many of them desperately in the grip of water scarcity, but the state’s Rural Water Supply (RWS) department is supplying water through tankers only to 169 habitations.
Ironically, while digging of borewells is banned, RWS itself is frantically digging new borewells down to 500 feet. With villagers really desperate, rig operators are cashing in, boring down to 1000 feet in some towns and villages. The revenue department is unable to take any action on illegal digging.
Farmers here have their own coping mechanism which they use every year: they sell their cattle ahead of the summer and buy them again after the rains begin. Though officials say they have no reports of fodder shortage, they did distribute fodder seeds to farmers. Only, there is no water to sow them. The admin here has decided to build 1000 water ponds for cattle under the NRGEA programme.
The ban on illegal borewells is clearly not working and digging activity is going on at several places. An average of 10 borewells are being drilled in the mandals of this district without permission from the Groundwater Department. Five rigs have been seized this summer.
However, the condition of animals is worrisome:
Distress sales of cattle have been reported, as have deaths of cattle: 50 at last count at the end of March. The animal husbandry department says the situation is indeed serious. Not only cattle, wild animals like peacock and deer are dying of thirst in the forests and leopards are straying into neighboring villages in search of food and water.
According to official data, four NREGS workers died in heat-related issues in March alone. The admin’s management of the situation has stuck to the proforma: ORS sachets at PHCs, siesta break for NREGS work and such like.
The worst-affected district in Telangana this summer has been Mahbubnagar and there is a sense of urgency in the administration. The District Medical & Health Office has set up rapid response teams to attend to sunstroke cases and make people aware of the threat of a heat wave through distribution of pamphlets and pasting posters at public places regarding personal hygiene and preventive measures.
All PHCs have been told to stock anti-diarrhoeal drugs and ORS packets. A 24X7 cell has been set up in the health HQ to receive the information on sunstroke deaths or casualties.
Borewell rig operators are making a killing thanks to the plunge in groundwater levels. Many farmers are engaging rig operators, spending a huge amount of money to deepen their existing borewells and or dig new ones.
Official figures suggest that the number of heads of cattle has decreased by 2 percent when compared with the figure of last year due to the water shortage and scarcity of fodder. The district has around 8.24 lakh cattle currently.
Nalgonda is dotted with 386,827 wells, many of them long dry and abandoned. This year, the water table is at 14.9 m, compared to 11.31 m at this time last year.
Digging of new borewells is banned but clandestine activity continues. The admin has leased 111 private borewells to supply water to 666 habitations while 66 of the worst-hit hamlets are served by water tankers. Animal husbandry officials say they haven’t heard of cattle deaths, but the context gives it away. Fodder requirement is 50,000 metric tonnes but only half the requirement is being met.
Keepers of goshalas in Karimnagar tell it like it is in Karimnagar: they have never seen a drought as bad as this. Though the animal husbandry department says no mass livestock deaths have been reported, there are reports aplenty that farmers are selling cattle to slaughterhouses. Privately, officials admit that livestock abandonment is a real possibility in May.
A major part of Karimnagar district falls in the coal belt, where temperatures are always 2-3 degrees C higher. In both of Karimnagar’s two reservoirs, water storage is a tenth of capacity. The present reading at the Lower Manair Dam is 2.733 tmc ft as against the capacity of 24.034 tmc ft. The dead storage level of 2.096 tmc ft is not far away. Chief engineer G Anil Kumar says yes the drinking water problem in the district HQ will get worse.
Storage in the Sripada Yellampalli Irrigation Project on Saturday 4.15 tmc ft as against the capacity of 20.175 tmc ft. Local villagers are sore that 158 cusecs of water is pumped to Hyderbad every day while they go thirsty. Although there are restrictions on digging of new borewells in upland areas, rig operators are active.
The district has stocked five lakh ORS sachets at PHCs, hospitals, and NRGEA work sites. Officers on field work are being to told finish their work by 1 p.m. Goshalas are also facing water scarcity and they are getting water through local tankers from private wells,.