May 17, 2015

Water Crisis in Rayalaseema: Promise, Corruption Everywhere but There Is No Drop to Drink

Hannan Mollah

Four districts of Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh – Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapura and Kurnool – have been under severe draught for the past few years. The situation in Chittoor and Kadapa is the worst. In Chittoor, 42 out of 66 mandals and in Kadapa, 48 out of 51 mandals are most affected. I visited some mandals, along with CPI(M) Chitoor district secretary Kumar Reddy, Kadapa district secretary K Anjanayu and leaders of All India Kisan Sabha, All India Agricultural Workers Association and FMRAI. We visited Chinnagottigallu mandal, Nemiligundlu village and Yeagauraru panchayat; these were earlier irrigated areas but all the deep tube wells have dried up – no ground water up to 1000 feet deep – sprinkle irrigation closed. There was a huge tank – like a lake – which has dried up without water for years. Shiv Kumar, a sarpanch, and Mohan Reddy, a zilla parishad member, told us that there were three major and 185 small tanks but all have dried up. There was no crop for the last several years. We met many villagers, sarpanches and they all complained of non-supply of even drinking water by the state government. Y Srinivasan, MLC, also accompanied us. We visited Saibulu Palli -- a Muslim dominated area with 2,500 population. The villagers said in the absence of rain there has been no crop in the last three years. No drinking water too. One tank of drinking water comes every 10 days and they are surviving with great difficulties. With no work under MGNREGA for the past nine months and people are migrating, cattle are dying. Mehboob, a ward member, and Farida Bibi explained their miseries. We then visited Rompi Cherla Mandal. This is fully dependent on rain-water which was illusive for years together. All crops were destroyed and poultry and cattle died. Sugarcane farmers here are in great difficulties as there is no cane production and two sugar mills have to be closed. Pichigrentalli, a tribal village, was facing unprecedented water crisis. The poor people have no work for many months. No drinking water. We found them collecting small quantity of water in small bowls from a tank which came after one week. Then we visited Pilar Mandal and Pilar gram panchayat. The sarpanch, ZPC member and many people gathered. The representatives of Congress, BJP and CPI(M) met us and submitted memorandum on acute shortage of water. Humayun Pashe, the sarpanch, explained the woes of the people due to scarcity of drinking water. Mr Anand, cairman of Mandal Parishad, told us that no water supply in the town area and they collect drinking water from a distant village water tank once in ten days. A water supply project called Gargeya project started a few years back but work stopped after sometime. Complaints of corruption were rampant. Fund was sanctioned for this summer storage project but work was left unfinished. It was supposed to be linked with the channel of Handri-Neeva Project but we found it dry. The people told us if there was no water supply for some more time, people would be forced to migrate to other parts of the state. The same situation we witnessed in K V Palli Mandal – no proper village road and no source of drinking water. During our tour, we saw about 2,000 mango orchards. This area was famous for mango production. But due to severe drought, not a single mango tree had fruit. The people complained that Chitoor was the birthplace of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. But he did nothing. A drinking water project, at a cost of Rs 1200 crore, announced by him to bring water from the Krishna river through pipeline was lying non-functional. People said Rs 200 crore was sanctioned for initial work but where the money was spent nobody knew. They ridiculed that Chandrababu Naidu was working hard to build Singapore like Capital at Amravati (haven) but his own district has been reduced to a hell without drinking water. People in all the places complained that no MP/MLAs of those areas had visited these affected areas so far and no action has been initiated by any people’s representative for the redressal of the people’s difficulties. The CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha have taken up this issue and have been campaigning for immediate supply of drinking water to save the people of Rayalaseema. They would build up strong movement against the government’s false promises and apathy to the people’s distress.