Uncontrolled and over-exploitation of groundwater resources for decades has depleted this precious source in India.
The depleting water levels threaten agriculture, industries and access to drinking water needs. While there are many efforts taken by the government and individual platforms to revive groundwater levels, a district collector in Telangana state has succeeded in increasing the levels by six metres.
Devarakonda Krishna Bhaskar became the first district collector of Rajanna-Sircilla in 2016 after it was carved on the map of Telangana.
To replenish the groundwater, the district administrator has worked wonders with the effective implementation of government schemes.
“Water scarcity has been a never-ending issue for the district. All the taluks or mandals were labelled, in the category of drought-prone or semi drought-prone,” says 36-year-old Krishna, adding that the severe water scarcity made it exceptionally difficult to live through the harsh days of summer.
“Hundreds of grievances were filed for the demand of water tankers for supply, RO (reverse osmosis) plants for construction and overhead water storage reservoir sanctions. To tackle the water scarcity, many initiatives were launched on priority,” Krishna says.
From upgrading tanks to having piped water systems, land acquisition of reservoirs, desiltation of water storage bodies, digging trenches and building capacity for water storage, the district went on a massive drive to conserve water in water bodies.
“Over the last three years, a significant progress is achieved by effectively implementing government schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and creating reservoirs,” Krishna says.
Explaining the initiatives the IAS officer, from the 2012 batch, says, “The Sri Rajarajeswara Reservoir with a capacity of 27 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) became operational after the project stayed stuck for a decade because of legal issues. In the process, it became the biggest reservoir in the state.”
Krishna adds that after completing the project in one and a half year, the operation of Annapurna reservoir also started in parallel.
“Carrying out the desiltation activities on Upper Manair reservoir, reviving small water bodies, ponds and filling water tanks were other measures taken at a micro level,” he adds.
The officer said that desiltation was done for multiple minor tanks and filled on their proximity to the reservoir access. “Such small tanks helped support and sustain the local population. Some water tanks are reported to have revived after decades and now maintained by the local communities,” Krishna tells The Better India.
There are about 699 water tanks identified across the district out of which 450 are brimming this year. “A unique initiative called Gudi Cheruvu was undertaken which involved acquiring land to increase water capacity of tanks inside the temples and reduce water scarcity at the local level,” he adds.
‘Gradual, but steady rise’
Krishna says that it was ensured that clean drinking water reaches every hamlet through a project Mission Bhagiratha.
With multiple approaches at all levels, the groundwater level of the district reportedly went up by six meters. “The levels went up steadily over a period spanning 12 to 18 months. The figures are confirmed and documented by the groundwater survey authorities,” Krishna says and adds, “The result was that agriculture activities increased by 150% in the district. It has been a gradual rise but steady.”
The officer says the water management practices implemented for three years in a row was recognised by the government of India. The Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, the premier training institute for government servants in the country took note of it and included it in their curriculum.
Krishna says that success was made possible only by prioritising the responsibilities and addressing them effectively.
“All the initiatives implemented already exist in the government system. Being a new district, the administration was under a lot of pressure to be active and deliver on the right notes. What we did was to prioritise and implement those schemes effectively on the ground,” he adds.
The district collector says that as officers, there is always the temptation to try many things at once. “But it is important to realise priorities and focus on them accordingly to reap the benefits,” Krishna says.
(Edited Yoshita Rao)