Wednesday, 5 August 2015

What drought means.

The Borewell Story

We have destroyed our lands through an unforgivable groundwater extraction. Maybe irremedially.

There were droughts in the past . Annasamy Anna, now 70, remembers the 'erra jonna karuvu' (red jowar famine) of his childhood, when the village used to walk to Vallivedu 3 km away daily to drink the gruel that would be poured out in gruel centres. But though crops and rains had failed, there was drinking water as there was some water in some well due to surviving ground water. Also the soil moisture allowed for some grass, and so the cows did not die. Trees also survived due to the same reason.

Then borewells came in, and in thirty years devastated the groundwater as they drew out the stored water of aeons. For those thirty years it was a bonanza and people irrigated drylands, and grew cash crops like sugarcane  and built their dream cement houses. The groundwater fell from 50 feet to 1000 feet. Today the groundwater is exhausted, and there is also not a molecule of soil moisture. In these droughts trees die, cattle starve and people have no drinking water.

And when water is mined from the 1000 feet and used for irrigation, that is high in salts, and the irrigated lands gets salinized and rendered worthless. That has happened in the Madanapalle area already. Currently the dissolved salts in water is 5 times the permissible levels, and that is what people are drinking.

The polity needs to implement the toothless groundwater extraction laws. Urgently. And save places not yet devastated.

Even in the years since we moved to the village 
1995 - Agriculture thrived. Water was at 200 feet depth. There was vigour and hope.

2015 - Barren lands, no water even at 700 feet depth, not a molecule of water in lands sucked dry by borewells. Hopelessness.
We saw this coming. But the technology of borewells and electricity brooked no questions.  

Dec 2014
Drought and waterlessness stalk Rayalseema. People collect some pots of water from the one functioning bore near Daliwada, Paalaguttapelle. Again the slight grass cover that appeared after the slight rains has dried up, and the cows stay hungry and thirsty. There is no agriculture, no livlihood, no grass cover for cows.

The resource base is exhausuted in a drought. Annapurna was telling me, 'Madam I was making some money by sending to Chennai tamarind and amla powder. Now there is no tamarind as the trees have all been cut. After the red sanders issue, the people have no access to the forest for MFP also, and so there is no amla.' ! I asked her if her tailoring was going on. She said that when people dont have money for food in this drought, were can they get blouses stitched. It is all so inter-connected.

March 2015

The last village bore also dried up some months ago, and there is drinking water crisis. Once in two days a tanker gives 15 pots of water per family (of 5 adults and some cattle.). There is insufficent water for cattle.

The calf in Varalu's home died of hunger  this morning after weakening for a few days. All cows are hungry.
Eashwaramma has sold her cow - and my heart stopped when she said this. The money from pouring milk was the only line of hope for the grandchildren dependent on her. But she is clear - she could not manage the water for the cow, and there was nowhere to get fodder from. She has accepted the situation - of complete assetlessness with equanimity. Eashwaramma is actually glad she sold her cow earlier - now it will be distress selling, and the cows will go to the butchery. People will follow the cows to yamaloka, because the only income they have is from selling a little milk in this drought.  

Distress sale of cattle is hapening, and looming larger. Munneshwari is bringing up her daughters Nandini and Chendu on her own, with her husbands drunkenness getting more by the day.   In this drought she has held onto her cows with grit. They bought a tractor load of straw for 10,000/-. I asked her where she got the money from, and she said somehow she got it from Banakadapalle. i asked her what the interest was and she said 5/- (Per month. Which is 60% p.a.). There is not even water for the cows, and the tractor gets limited number of pots of water per home per day from the one live bore in te panchayat. So she leaves water pots in everyone's home, and they pous the water from washing rise into it, and the rice starch, and that she collects and manages as one round for the cows.'

 There is total unemployment as agriculture stopped many months ago. With no money, people are having to purchase rice, pulses oils all at city rates from the shops. One can imagine what they would be eating. There are health crises, as is common in a malnourished community and there is no money.


Worse goes to worst.

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