Water-stressed in India: Curious case of 2 neighbouring Telangana districts

The contrast in the districts’ JSA rankings was due to proper implementation of schemes

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Thursday 19 March 2020
K Ramalingam, from Mahbubnagar district, encouraged 17 other farmers in the village to dig farm ponds as well Photo: Akshit Sangomla
K Ramalingam, from Mahbubnagar district, encouraged 17 other farmers in the village to dig farm ponds as well Photo: Akshit Sangomla K Ramalingam, from Mahbubnagar district, encouraged 17 other farmers in the village to dig farm ponds as well Photo: Akshit Sangomla

The two neighbouring districts of Rangareddy and Mahabubnagar in Telangana ranked diametrically opposite each other in the Union government’s Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) initiative that looks at work done in 255 water-stressed districts across India.

The work done is assessed under six core areas: Water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies or tanks, water reuse, bore well recharge structures, watershed development and intensive afforestation.

Mahabubnagar’s 10th rank and 40.11 percentage score was ensured by a pro-active district administration and the simple fact that rural initiatives like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) were implemented effectively.

Rangareddy, on the other hand, ranked 201 with a percentage score of just 10.55, just below Karnataka’s Bengaluru district.

This was because of a lackadaisical administration in the backdrop of the district’s rapid urbanisation that led to the unavailability of water for agriculture.

“Ground water levels in our village dipped considerably in the past few years and not much work happened under MGNREGA for recharge of water,” said S Narsimlu, a resident of Annaram village in Rangareddy’s Farooqnagar mandal.

Narsimlu dug three bore wells in his 1.2-hectare field at a cost of Rs 1.8 lakh. All three, unfortunately, turned out to be dry.

He is now at a loss to find new sources of water before sowing for the next crop season begins.

Annaram — a village in Mahbubnagar — came under Rangareddy, after the re-organisation of districts in October 2016.

A sharp 90 per cent decline in water level of monitored wells was recorded in Rangareddy between May 2018 and 2019, according to the Status of Ground Water Level Scenario published by the state’s ground water department in 2019.

In Mahbubnagar, an 80 per cent fall in water levels was recorded in wells monitored in the same period. The scenario, however, changed drastically.

Water levels in all 25 monitored wells, barring one, recorded a rise, between January 2019 and 2020, according to the district ground water department’s data.

Mahbubnagar’s average rise in water levels was 5.37 metres, with the highest rise of 10.83 metres in Udityal village under Balanagar mandal.

Water conservation projects and other associated work undertaken by the district administration under JSA were responsible for this rise.

In Rangareddy, however, rural development officer D Prashant Kumar refused to divulge details of the district’s latest groundwater levels and work undertaken under JSA.

“I have been able to grow rice which is a water intensive crop in this season only because of my recharged bore well,” said K Ramalingam, a resident of Madaram village in Mahbubnagar’s Hanwada mandal.

Ramalingam said an eight by eight metre, 6-foot deep farm pond dug up in a corner of his field with guidance and funds from the gram panchayat, was responsible for this.

Water pressure and output from his bore well increased in a single season, allowing him to use this and water stored in his pond, for irrigation.

Other farmers with bore wells close to his farm pond also observed a slight increase in water output.

This encouraged 17 other farmers from the village to follow Ramalingam’s lead and dig up farm ponds in their fields.

K Krishnaiah who dug up a farm pond a few months after Ramalingam, was able to cultivate groundnut in the last season making extra profit.

He also supplies water to a relative who has a farm nearby.

The tree plantation program, another intervention under JSA, is also in full swing in the village.

“Around 40,000 saplings including 20,000 teak saplings were supplied to the gram panchayat with MGNREGA funds,” said Laxmi Narayana, Mahbubnagar district’s Direct Benefit Transfer manager, who looks after JSA projects in the district.

Taking care of saplings and planting them has provided employment to villagers, especially women.

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