Naidu’s Rain Dance

Is the chief min­is­ter over­reach­ing with his am­bi­tious wa­ter con­ser­va­tion project?

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

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.


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