Bangalore can take a leaf out of Anantapur book

Thirsty City:

Bangalore can take a leaf out of Anantapur book

exemplary: A file photo of water pipes being laid for the Anantapur Drinking Water Supply Project in Anantapur,  Andhra Pradesh. Photo courtesy sathya sai central trust. While Anantapur, one of Andhra Pradesh’s most arid districts in the Rayalaseema region, enjoys a decade-and-a-half of uninterrupted drinking water supply, Bangalore,
the ‘City of tanks’, is struggling with an unending water crisis.

In what seems like a drastic turn of events for the two districts, which are barely comparable, Bangalore has lost a majority of the tanks it had. And Anantapur — known to be a dead dry place with a few water sources high in flouride content and miles away from habitation — has newer mechanisms of water supply.

The ruin of Bangalore is something we are familiar with. The miracle in Anantapur, led by none other than their “beloved deity” Sathya Sai Baba, however, first began in 1995 when the godman is said to have famously remarked: “Rayalaseema should be ensured water supply throughout the year…Today, it (Rayalaseema) is a rocky region; it must be transformed into a ‘ratnalaseema’ (land of diamonds).”

Recalling this statement, C Vijay Kumar of Puttaparthi village, told Deccan Herald: “We had nothing here. There was very little water in the district and even that was high in fluoride content, because of which people suffered from fluorosis, leading to widespread dental and skeletal deformities. It is after 1995 when the Anantapur Drinking Water Supply Programme was taken up by Bhagwan that we have no problem.”

Two extremes

Vijay, who has been living here for the last 47 years, has seen both the conditions of the district — the dry, ruthless days and the present days with adequate water supply even during harsh summers.

Seetha Lakshmi (54), a resident of Bukkapattanam in Anantapur district, says: “We had to trudge long distances in the unforgiving heat to fetch water for daily consumption. And during summers, most of our feet-dragging journeys would go in vain but giving up was not an option!”

Unlike in Bangalore, where there were enough prospects to create storage facilities as existing water bodies could help provide for drinking besides the grand Cauvery project that brought additional water supply to the city/district, Anantapur, only had non-perennial, weak rivers in Pennar, Hagari and Chitravathi. But the difference today is that this backward district of Andhra Pradesh has enough water for everybody to drink and one of India’s leading cities is witnessing real estate collapse in some parts due to an acute water shortage.

Godman’s remark

Days after the godman had made the remark, villagers said, he directed people to draw up plans to execute his wish — provide water to the district of Anantapur. There are different schemes under the programme to suit the varying conditions of villages.

The main strategy was to tap river water wherever available - dams, river beds and canals - and then deliver it through a network of storage reservoirs, pipes and booster pumps.

The project also envisaged and executed the Summer Storage Tank Scheme, wherein water was tapped from the Tungabhadra canal during the rainy season and fed to a set of summer storage tanks, which in turn, became sources of water during summer. About 100 villages that suffered from acute summer conditions as surface water dries up have benefited through this. And another 279 villages have benefited from the borewell scheme.

Too greedy

What has saved Anantapur, it seems, is the will of an institution / one man to cater to the needy and the will of the recipients to not get greedy.

In Bangalore though, both seem to be missing as those with access to some form of water resource are too greedy to conserve it.

Project highlights

Number of villages covered    750
Number of people covered    9 lakh
Length of pipelines    2,000 km
Number of sumps constructed    43 sumps
Number of overhead tanks constructed    270
Number of summer storage tanks    7
(Four 60 acre tanks and three 32 acre tanks)
Number of borewells    250
Infiltration tanks    13
Number of groundlevel reservoirs    125

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