On a mission mode to save tanks in Telangana

On a mission mode to save tanks in Telangana

The Kakatiya dynasty constructed 46,531 water tanks which were interlinked across Telangana region. The rulers knew that the semi-arid region could not have irrigation canals owing to its geographical location despite two rivers Krishna and Godavari flowing through its heartland. These tanks have played an important role in the day-to-day life of the peasantry.

Historians say that Satavahanas built huge water tanks. Kakatiyas continued to dig more tanks to store water during monsoon season and then use the same to meet irrigation and drinking water needs during summer. Massive water bodies such as Ramappa, Pakala, Laknavaram, Ghanapuram, Bayyaram built by the kings provided water to other places through “Golusu Kattu Cheruvulu” (chain of smaller water tanks). “If one major tank is filled up the water would reach every nook and corner through the linking water tanks,” Telangana irrigation minister T Harish Rao says.

The tradition was to de-silt water bodies in summer and use the silt as fertiliser and then keep them ready to receive monsoon rain. During the “Batukamma” season, women would leave hundreds of marigold flowers into these water bodies to clean the water. Several festivals in Telangana revolve around the upkeep of the water bodies.

The tradition was then continued by the Muslim rulers. The Qutubshahis and Asafjahis, who ruled this region for centuries, built a number of tanks such as Osman Sagar which have been providing potable water to the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad even today.

The tanks also irrigated huge tracts of command area in Telangana for centuries. Down the years the catchment area of these tanks shrunk, snuffing the life out of these water bodies. Links between these water tanks snapped and the villages suffered. Northern Telangana districts such as Medak, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Rangareddy and Nalgonda in the south were the worst affected as water from Musi, Manjira, Krishna and Godavari were diverted to irrigate lands elsewhere.

As a result the rural economy

crumbled forcing the small and marginal farmers to migrate to Mumbai, Surat, Bengaluru and West Asia in search of employment. The government attributes the large-scale suicides of farmers in the region to the failure of the water bodies. “Mana Uru Mana Cheruvu” under Mission Kakatiya is the programme to identify and restore the lost glory of water bodies with the help of the local community.

The census conducted by the Telangana government has identified 46,531 minor irrigation tanks managed by different departments. About 20 per cent of these tanks will be taken up for restoration every year over the next five years. The government, through the mission mode programme, hopes to cover the gap in the command area and help in cultivation of high-value and low water intensive crops such as chillies, maize and vegetables, developing fisheries, improving livestock, and increasing water table, thereby saving valuable electricity used in pumping depleted bore water.

The tanks are identified by field level engineers as per the guidelines framed by the government for effective and efficient implementation of Mission Kakatiya. Among other things, it emphasises the need for prioritising tanks to be taken up for restoration and works that are to be taken up, tendering and working procedures to be followed.

The government has invited Telangana NRIs who aspire for development of their villages to adopt a tank or more. Non-profit and development-oriented charity social organisations, NGOs; corporate organisations are also invited to adopt tanks. The government has opened a window for donors to pay for the revival of tanks and get their names inscribed on plaques. However, their involvement will be limited to supervision, protection, beautification and maintenance of the tanks. Government website says that so far 30 NRIs have come forward to adopt tanks. The government has decided to seek exemption to donors under Sector 80C of the Income Tax Act.

To stop further encroachment by realtors, a social organisation for each tank is proposed to be constituted. They will have to help in removing silt every year. Farmers are to be motivated by these people’s organisations to excavate and dump the silt in their fields for increasing yields and maintaining the tank capacity to its standards. Initial estimates put the cost of Mission Kakatiya at Rs 22,000 crore. The government has taken up 9,300 tanks for resto­ration this year (2014-15). Once completed, Mission Kakatiya will provide storage for 265 tmc of water from the Godavari and Krishna basins. The government has set aside Rs 5,500 crore this year, which includes Rs 1,000 crore from the Centre.

Recently, students of the University of Michigan, USA, have confirmed that the cost on inorganic fertiliser has come down drastically after the application of the soil removed from the water bodies. Students further said that yield had incre­ased in a sample of 1,100 farmers in 38 villages in Nalgonda district. Students visited Warangal, Adilabad and Karimnagar and interacted with about 500 farmers.

Taking the restoration of Kakatiya pride to the next level,  the government also took up repairs of two ancient temples of the Kakatiya era in Kusumanchi mandal in Khammam district. The state archaeological department will be spending Rs 60 lakh to restore Sri Ganapeshwaralayam and Mukkanteshwaralayam temples, which were constructed by the Kakatiya kings in 12 century.

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