The inequitable distribution of irrigation and drinking water in Anantapur district has led to a crisis. Now the district administration is struggling to provide even drinking water, leave alone saving the crops or facilitating sowing of seeds for the Kharif season.
Anantapur district, which has two major sources of water – Tungabhadra High Level Canal (HLC) and Handri Neeva Sujala Sravanthi Network (HNSS) network bringing Krishna water, suffered the most during 2018-19 season. While 24 tmcft was received from HNSS canal network, there is hardly any credible information available on the actual distribution of available water or areas of priority.
The other source – Tungabhadra’s HLC, which is supposed to bring 32 tmcft, yields only 21 tmcft due to siltation of the dam and in the last 10 years the district has been able to draw only between 10 tmcft and 15 tmcft.
“Politically assertive public representatives have been taking the lion’s share of water to their constituencies ignoring the needs of lakhs of other people,” opined Communist Party of India (Marxist) district secretary V. Rambhupal.
Accion Fraterna Ecology Centre Director Y.V. Malla Reddy told The Hindu that flood irrigation was the worst method of use of available water in the parched lands of Anantapur. “An equitable distribution of water for the entire population was possible only if available water was let into village tanks improving the groundwater table for the farmers to draw through 2.5 lakh borewells sunk so far, “ he pointed out.
From March this year 5 tmcft from HNSS was supposed to be released into tanks for drinking water needs, but even that has not been done, point out farmers.” Some rain-fed crop can be saved during long dry spells in monsoon if the borewells yield water close to tanks and people get sufficient for drinking, saving lakhs of rupees in transportation through tankers,” opined Mr. Malla Reddy.
With the available water only 70,000 hectares can be irrigated in the district if flood irrigation is promoted and by expanding the distributary canal network, the government might bring new ayacut under irrigation, but stabilisation of the existing ayacut under borewells will severely suffer, he added.
Incentivisation of millets like Korralu or Foxtail millet, Jowar and others popular in the region would save a lot of costly irrigation water, and provide guaranteed remunerative price to the farmers, according to Mr. Malla Reddy, and he has sought more financing for these crops from the government.