Naidu’s Rain Dance
Is the chief minister overreaching with his ambitious water conservation project?
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has promised to do the equivalent of waving his magic wand to build 20,000 check dams covering 13 districts in 90 days at a cost of Rs 720 crore before end July.
The Neeti Samrakshana Udyamam (Save Water Movement) aims to recharge groundwater, harvest rainwater and store water for lean months in the parched regions. The sites for the check dams have been identified from a study by the Andhra Pradesh Space Applications Centre based on remote sensing data. “We can ensure a 25 per cent increase in farm yields by judiciously using water resources,” says Naidu, who is roping in civil society for the initiative. Engineering students will oversee the construction and NGOs will educate villagers on the benefits of conserving water. A mobile phone application, AP Varuna, will update farmers on weather conditions, temperatures, humidity levels and the status of groundwater in their fields a week in advance. The state government has also installed 1,256 gadgets to monitor groundwater levels. Although 3 to 8 metres is the ideal depth of the water table, the current average is a much lower 14.34 metres.
Ironically, even as Naidu rolls out his new plan, a similar scheme, Panta Sanjeevani, launched two years ago, languishes for lack of attention. Its aim was to create 930,000 farm ponds but it barely met 60 per cent of its target even though over Rs 1,000 crore of MNREGA funds were poured into it.
HIGH TIDE Naidu inspects the Polavaram project on the Godavari