The Chandrababu Naidu is facing a is a herculean task
The Andhra Pradesh government has launched ‘Neeti Samrakshana Udyamam’ (water conservation movement) from April 15 to July 15, which is aimed at providing water security in the state and has a target of building 20,000 check dams in 90 days.
The Neeti Samrakshana Udyamam is carried out to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs, particularly in drought-prone areas and making Andhra Pradesh “drought-free” by the year 2019.
It seems the Andhra Pradesh government is banking heavily on groundwater as a resource for agriculture in the drought-prone areas. Using satellite technology, it has planned 20,000 check dams on first, second and third order water courses to recharge the groundwater in drought-prone areas.
But as per the preliminary estimates, a minimum of Rs 720 crore will be spent on the construction of check dams, but the expenditure may likely to go up depending on the size of the structures. Each check dam may cost anywhere between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 50 lakh, depending on the size.
The government also plans harvesting structures to enable recharging of the water table at the very point where there is rainfall and it would be carried out with the help from the ISRO and the Andhra Pradesh Space Application Centre (APSAC). It has invested a lot by installing 1,256 piezometers for real time monitoring of groundwater.
The government has fixed 3 m to 8 m as the ideal depth below ground level (BGL) for the table, but recent data of ground water department reveals that it hit an average of 14.34 m below the ground, which indicates 23.30% rainfall deficit.
The average depth of the groundwater is six metres below ideal depth and experts say it is at this depth that the submersible motor pumps begin to break down frequently or fail altogether.
According to data, the average depth of water table in Rayalaseema is deeper at 20.11 m BGL, while the average depth in the State is 14.34 m; this means the recharging of groundwater may become a formidable task if the current trend continues, warn the experts.
The only solace point is that the water table is 11.77 m BGL in coastal Andhra. In Anantapur, the water table is at an average of 25.74 m BGL, where as the water table in Prakasam, Kadapa and Chittor is more than 20 m BGL.
The data also pointed out that the groundwater in 60% of the area in the state is below the ideal 8 m BGL. Only powerful submersible motor pumps can lift groundwater from depths of over 8 m.
According to district-wise figures over 90% of the area in Anantapur the groundwater is 8m BGL. The percentage area of other drought-prone districts with the water table is 8 m BGL and more are Chittoor 79.40 %, Kadapa 78.8% and Prakasam 78.8%.The water table has fallen to 114.14 m BGL in Kadapa district and 91.37 m BGL at the Musunuru Piezometer in Krishna district.
Earlier, the Andhra Pradesh government has taken up the water conservation movement against the backdrop of a similar scheme – Panta Sanjeevani (farm ponds) – launched two years ago, under which not even 60 per cent of the targets were achieved although over Rs 1,000 crore were already spent.
The required funds for the programme will be sourced from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The AP Space Applications Centre (APSAC) conducted a study in the last six months and identified sites, where the check dams could be built.
But, according to data on the Chief Minister Office Real-time Executive (CORE) Dashboard, only 58.71 per cent of the target was achieved in 2015-16 under the Panta Sanjeevani programme.
While a target of digging 5.3 lakh farm ponds was set in 2015-16, only 3,11,161 ponds were actually dug at a cost of Rs 966.32 crore, the CORE Dashboard showed.
The Dash Board data shows that in 2016-17, 1,482 farm ponds were dug in 2016-17 as against the target of four lakh and administrative sanction was accorded for digging 4,15,381 ponds at an estimated expenditure of Rs 4,111 crore, but only Rs 14.26 crore was spent.
Work on another 1,05,432 ponds is in progress. Interestingly, despite its failure in completing the Panta Sanjeevani programme in the last two years, the government has set a fresh target of digging another four lakh farm ponds under Panta Sanjeevani in 2017-18 using NREGS funds.
The experts are expressing apprehensions about 20,000 check dams being built in 90 days, which is a herculean task, when the State is reeling under financial crunch. Even, the Socio-Economic Survey has revealed that the total debts by the State were Rs 1,92,984 crore at the end of 2016-17, according to revised estimates, where it was Rs 1,73,854 crore at the end of the corresponding previous 2015-16.