The Chief Minster laid a lot of emphasis on water conservation and water harvesting. He has taken up a campaign for sensitising the people of the State and the administration for better management of water to prevent drought. Launching of an innovative programme called ‘Neeru Meeru, formation of Watershed Committees, promotion of Water Shed development have all been taken up in the State for better management of water on the insistence of Naidu. Water Conservation Mission was formed as a step in this direction. Inspired by his efforts there has been a voluntary participatory movement amongst the citizens of the state towards water conservation. A number of households have built rain water-harvesting structures towards this cause.
In 1997, the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), India embarked on an ambitious program of reform to its irrigation sector In this large agricultural state, irrigation management has been revolutionized by transferring responsibility for the operation and maintenance (O&M) of irrigation schemes to groups of farmers In total, 10,292 Water User Associations (WUAs) have been created The reform required a number of very difficult changes, as the role of irrigation agency is gradually shifting from service provider to facilitator, and reform has not come without resistance and conflict However, early indications are overwhelmingly positive, as many irrigation systems are realizing increased revenues, an increase in irrigated area, and enhanced involvement of farmers in the operation of irrigation.
The Water User Associations (WUAs) and 174 Distributory Committees (DCs) were created through a democratic process of elections The APFMIS Act gives the state the power to create WUAs and federate WUAs into higher-level committees Reform has made the irrigation agency accountable to the Farmer Organizations, and resulted in the tripling of water charges and linking the money collected to the costs of operating and maintaining irrigation systems. Change in the irrigation sector is only a portion of a series of reforms initiated over the last five years under the dynamic leadership of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu The programs aim to modernize AP government and vitalize its economy by making the providers of services such as irrigation, education, and health accountable to users and other stakeholders The emphasis is on making the reform process participatory through a process of extensive public consultations, and on achieving quick results.
Reform will go a long way towards making the irrigation sector sustainable The goal of the reform will be achieved when WUAs in AP become sustainable by raising funds for irrigation operation and maintenance on their own Water sector reforms in Andhra Pradesh break new ground for reforms in the water sector in India Several states in the India have launched similar programs with AP as a role model. Keeping the farmers’ interests in view, the government has been giving high priority to irrigation, water conservation and management. Within a decade, investment in irrigation projects increased three-fold resulting in the creation of a new irrigation potential of 10 lakh acres and the stabilisation of 18 lakh acres. An outlay of Rs.10,845 crores is proposed under the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) with emphasis on completing ongoing projects in backward regions.
The first serious attempt by the government to conserve water resources began in 1994, which it declared as the year of minor irrigation with focus on rejuvenation of tanks. In 1998, a report prepared jointly by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund) placed Andhra Pradesh among those Indian States that faced the spectre of a freshwater crisis, with millions of people denied access to safe water supply. The UNICEF-WWF report suggested legislation to protect groundwater resources in water-scarce areas. The legislation should aim to regulate water extraction and the types of crops grown in identified areas, ensure mandatory construction of recharge structures and prohibit the drawal of water below certain depths for purposes of irrigation and industry. The report recommended the decentralisation of management and regulation of water resources, devolving to local communities – panchayats – the authority and responsibility to manage the water environment. For this purpose they will be given financial support.
An ambitious Rs.100-crore project was launched to conserve water on one crore acres (about 40 lakh hectares) of land, across different climatic and geophysical zones. Its success depended largely on the efforts of the local community, especially in the rural areas where gully-plugging, rockfill dams and percolation tanks facilitated better water storage. The programme thus saw the constitution of committees at the State, district, constituency, municipal, mandal and gram panchayat levels, duly involving elected representatives, officials, non-governmental organisations and other agencies concerned. In order to execute conservation works, at the local level separate stake-holder groups or committees such as the Vana Samrakshana Samithi (VSS), water users’ association (WUA) and watershed committee were set up.
The new programme also harped on decentralisation by referring to people’s participation and the need to facilitate coordination of the conservation efforts of different government departments – forest, irrigation, rural development, horticulture, animal husbandry, mining and groundwater. In its first year (May 2000 to April 2001), the programme succeeded in raising groundwater tables by a modest one metre. The original goal was to increase the total quantity of rechargeable water from 35,000 million cubic metres (mcm) as recorded in 1993 to 50,000 mcm over the next five years – the maximum achievable. In January this year, another round of reorganisation occurred when the Chandrababu Naidu government modified the village administrative system. It was in October 2001 that the government prepared the draft legislation that comes into effect in June as the Andhra Pradesh Land, Water and Trees Act, 2002. It was conceived as a comprehensive piece of legislation that would regulate the exploitation of ground and surface water resources, while providing for punishment to those violating the guidelines. The Act, prepared by the departments of environment, forests, science and technology, provides for the institution of a water, land and tree authority. The Act will also set up another authority to oversee the progress of efforts made thus far to promote water conservation and increase tree cover.
At the same time, the State government’s recent decision to institute “Jala Mitra” awards for outstanding performance in the “Neeru-Meeru” programme shows its continued viability. Its progress measured until February 2002 bears this out. Despite a 4 per cent deficit in rainfall, the average depth to water level in the State was 10.3 metres compared with 10.70 metres at the same time last year. The number of seasonal borewells drying up too plummeted – from 5,747 to 1,361 over the same period. And the number of habitations where drinking water has to be transported dropped from 48 to 18.
On the other hand, in Hyderabad and the once-fertile southeastern parts of Andhra Pradesh there is a need for drastic conservation measures. To tackle the drinking water problem in the cities on a war-footing, the Cabinet recently cleared an action plan to supply 162 million gallons a day (mgd) to the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and the surrounding municipalities, besides sanctioning an additional Rs.875 crores to ensure supply of water from the Krishna river. Meanwhile, there is also a contingency plan involving a cost of Rs.93.71 crores in place for rural water schemes. This would cover emergency repairs to existing water sources and the supply of pipes that would be taken up as part of the Food-for-Work programme.