Hyderabad reels under acute water shortage as rain plays truant
“By the end of 2017, our government will ensure supply of drinking water to every nook and corner of Hyderabad every day,” declared Telangana minister for municipal administration KT Rama Rao at a government function last week.
But his pledge came with a rider: “This is subject to good monsoon this year,” Rao, who is chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s son, said.
The reality, however, under the scorching sun in the state’s capital Hyderabad is markedly different. Far from being water-sufficient, the city is parched due to an acute water shortage with residents being forced to stand in long queues to collect water.
“Forget daily water supply. We are lucky to get water for a few hours every alternate day,” says an exasperated V Phani, a resident of Puppalguda in the city’s outskirts.
Rains have played truant and almost all major reservoirs that cater to the drinking water needs of the bustling metropolis are running dangerously low. The water level in Nagarjunasagar – one of the major sources of water – was down to just 506 feet on April 22, as against 590 feet when the reservoir is full. Despite falling below the minimum drawdown level of 510 feet, the increasingly desperate authorities are still pumping out water from the lake using heavy pressure pumping machines.
Quenching the thirst of Hyderabadis so far have been supplies from the Krishna, Godavari and Manjira rivers and the Osmansagar reservoir. Himayatsagar, the other major reservoir, has completely dried up.
“But this accounts for only 60-70% of the drinking water demand of the city,” pointed out an official of the water supply board. “As many as 12 new drinking water storage tanks are getting ready. But unless there are good rains to fill them up, the plans to augment the supply will remain a pipedream,” he added.
Ironically, Telangana finds itself in the grip of a crippling water shortage despite experiencing more than average rainfall during the last south-west monsoon season. It rained 912 mm as against the normal average of 713.5 mm. But the rains were not uniform across the state and occurred mostly at the fag end of the monsoon, making matters worse.
According to data of the Telangana state development planning society, the state had a deficit rainfall of minus 6 percent till August 2016. The late rainfall in Kharif season helped the Rabi crop. But due to the subsequent dry spell, Rabi crops withered in several areas.
Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh fared even worse with 10 out of the 13 districts receiving less than normal rainfall. Except Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and Guntur, districts experienced deficit rainfall ranging from 20% (Srikakulam, Prakasham and Rayalseema) to 60% in Nellore. As many as the state’s 370 out of 670 mandals were identified as drought-hit till September last.
The after-effect of inadequate monsoon is being felt the most in urban centres with tempers rising in high-rise apartments. “We are forced to stand in queue for a long time to get our turn. At the most, we get two or three pots of water after much struggle and quarrel,” says Nagamani, a housewife in Hyderabad’s Vidyanagar neighbourhood.
Water is equally precious in the interior areas of Telangana where the groundwater table has sharply fallen by an alarming 2.46 metres. In some districts such as Sangareddy, it has plummeted by as much as 5.84 metres.
Acre upon acre of agricultural land with dried crops bears testimony to the dashed hopes of farmers. “We thought we would get a bumper crop during the Rabi season ending March, but we could not get even half of the produce due to lack of water,” rued Venkat Reddy, a farmer of Yadadri Bhongir on the Hyderabad-Warrangal highway.