Centre’s notification on irrigation projects may harm AP’s drought-hit regions
Senior TDP leaders met under the chairmanship of party Chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and expressed concern over the Central Gazette, according to which the Union government will monitor the common irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The leaders observed that serious injustice is being done to the Andhra Pradesh farmers due to the “anti-farmer policies” of Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Given that ties between AP and Telangana are already under strain with respect to several issues of bifurcation and sharing of water, this is likely to escalate the tensions between the Telugu states.
“The YSRCP is boasting about the CM’s efforts for the Gazette while the fact is that it will cause permanent harm to the irrigation needs of Rayalaseema, Prakasam and Nellore districts,” they opined.
Centre’s Midnight gazette notification
Just a few days earlier, the Modi government released a ‘midnight gazette notification’, taking control of all major and medium irrigation projects on the Krishna and the Godavari rivers from October 14 came as a rude shock to the Telangana state government.
The sudden development came in the wake of the row over sharing of the Krishna waters between Telangana state and Andhra Pradesh, and both states lodging a series of complaints with the Centre against each other over the Rayalaseema lift irrigation scheme and enhancement of the capacity of the Pothireddypadu project by the AP government and hydel power generation on the Krishna river projects by the Telangana government.
Rayalaseema continues to be neglected
It is important to note that the Rayalaseema region (comprising Kurnool, Anantapur, Chittoor, Kadapa along with Prakasam) is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in India. It also continues to be the most neglected region for development in Andhra Pradesh.
Given that rainfall is low and unreliable, it witnesses frequent droughts. Irrigation is limited in Rayalaseema — there is little surface water and groundwater resources have been over-exploited with many borewell drilling regularly failing to strike water and/or borewells are running dry.
Rainfed crops are predominantly oilseeds followed by pulses and cotton — all grown as cash crops. Limited areas of irrigation are used for commercial horticulture, an important sub-sector, although these farmers are vulnerable to wells running dry, resulting in considerable distress, and some have committed suicide.
Lack of soil moisture is further aggravated by poor soil fertility, crop pests and diseases, poor quality seed, lack of access to improved and drought tolerant varieties, and delays in weather-critical crop operations caused by lack of labour and machinery. Farmers also lack access to information and advice on drought-adapted technologies.
Given that these drought-hit regions of AP already face a water challenge, this notification by the Centre comes as a blow to the farmers and people of the Rayalaseema region. With TDP and other opposition parties pointing out this problem (which is likely to worsen the drought situation), it remains to be seen how the current YSRCP government will respond to the water crisis in future.
TEJASWINI PAGADALA is an independent communications consultant. She has previously worked with the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office as the Communications Officer where she has written English speeches for the CM, managed English media communication from the CMO and handled social media accounts of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and the Government.