Monday, 23 May 2016

Anatomy of a Drought

E. Palaguttapalli gram panchayat, Chittoor district, A.P.

(We belong to this village, and have lived thro' the heyday of 1990s when our lands gave us good income. We have also lived through the serial droughts thro' 2015 when we needed to run to neighbouring fields for water when the current came, or had to get up at midnight when the water tanker came with the budgeted eight pots per household.  

We have seen hope and optimisim when there was work for farmer and tenent farmer in 1990s to now when people survive on some MNREGA works. It is a manmade crisis.
We have all together worked on various rain water harvesting schemes, and not a drop of water leaves the panchayat. But the groundwater overuse has been so total that the cyclonic rains of 2016 January that filled the tanks disappeared in a matter of months completely into a vast waterless underground.
Thirty years ago, before borewells and electricity, we used to draw out annually the water which was recharged by rain. Bullock power was used. Water was at 50 feet.
After thirty years of groundwater overuse  the water available is again only what gets recharged annually. But rains have decreased and less water is there than then. Now the water is at 1000 feet and  can only be drawn out with electricity from those depths.
Thirty years ago even when rains failed, there would be some drinking water in some well. And the trees never dried up and the cattle were not distress sold. Today there is no moisture left in the ground and rain failure causes drinking water crisis, and distress sale of cattle.)

Up to 1970’s: Sustainable Water Usage

(Rainfed crops)
Number of working wells: 76
● Open wells

Then Borewells Happened ...

During 1980’s and 1990’s: Excessive Water Usage

 (Tube well irrigated commercial crops - such as Sugarcane)
Number of working wells: 198
● Open wells (blue)
● Tube wells (red)

Since 2002: Water Crisis 

(Rain fed subsistence crops - such as Groundnut)
Number of working wells: 59
● Open wells (blue)
● Tube wells  (red)

Water accounting data
 The water extracted in pre borewell times used to be less than the annual recharge. Once borewells were established water eight times over the annual recharge was extracted. Today the groundwater reserves are exhausted, and water drawn out can only be that water with which the annual rain recharges the groundwater.

This is till 2000 when we hit 200 feet. The next picture to be updated is 2016, 1000 feet.

In the heyday in 1990s 291 crore litres per year was drawn, and in 2015 the water available is only 25 crores litre per year.


Worried meetings, collective thinking by the farmers and the landless labourers. 

The times

 The cattle have little to graze on. Eashwaramma says that to milk such starved cows is to draw their blood.
 This is the Malleshwaram cheruvu tank ayacut which in the 1990s used to be lush with paddy and sugarcane. Now it is arid.

The trees have all dried up in our field. Our bore dried up long ago.

The water tanker which comes on days and nights alternately.

Eight pots per family for cooking and drinking and bathing and washing. A family means five humans and some cattle.
When Chandra's bore had water the village used to go there and collect water when the three phase current came.

Those Happier Times in the 1990s, when every inch of land was cropped

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