Water Scarcity
The two deaths and the water crisis strikingly went unnoticed in the din of electioneering and the high-profile tussle between the Election Commission and the government.
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A clash over drinking water resulted in the death of a woman in a Rayalaseema village. The village, which falls under the Pattikonda constituency in the faction-hit Kurnool district, was represented by Deputy Chief Minister KE Krishnamurthy in the outgoing Andhra Pradesh state Assembly.

V Padmavati (48), a resident of Kadamakuntla village under Tuggali mandal, lost her life following a row over water on Monday night. Her neighbour was allegedly drawing water for his house out of turn by fitting a pipeline to a hand bore set up by the village panchayat, forcing the victim to wait for a longer period for her containers to fill. When she grew impatient and questioned the neighbour, a clash reportedly broke out.

Soon, her husband and son joined the clash. Seeing her family members beaten up by the neighbours, Padmavati reportedly ran to a police picket posted in the village (following a murder that took place a few days ago) seeking to prevent the clash and save her husband and son. But she collapsed a few yards before the police picket complaining of hypertension. She was pronounced dead by doctors at the primary health centre at Pattikonda on Tuesday.

This is the second loss of life claimed by what is perceived as water wars in Kurnool district in a gap of 10 days. Moula Bi from Lakshminagar in Kurnool city too died in a similar fashion at a municipal tap on May 10. The 25-year-old had come to her maternal house for delivery. Seeing her parents caught in a violent clash with neighbours over fetching water, she went to their rescue. In the melee, she fell over a boulder and sustained a critical head injury. She succumbed to her injuries in hospital the next day.

Water issue ignored during elections

The two deaths and the water crisis strikingly went unnoticed in the din of electioneering and the high-profile tussle between the Election Commission and the government.

Kurnool city, which has a population of over 5 lakh, depends on the Sunkesula project, located 20 km away and built on the Tungabhadra river, for drinking needs. The dam went dry in this summer because of scanty rainfall and the dam’s poor storage capacity. The dwindling inflow left the Kurnool Municipal Corporation rationing water and curtailing supply to alternate days. Accordingly, each household will receive five pots of water with which it has to manage for two days.

Boya Sabitha from Nirmala Nagar buys a water tanker for Rs 400-500, along with two of her neighbours, in addition to the water supplied by the corporation. “We are a five-member family and need at least five pots of water a day for drinking. But we receive only 4-5 pots every two days. We have no option but to buy water from private sources for cooking, bathing and washing clothes,” she explains.

Waiting for the tap to trickle municipal water consumes 5-6 hours each time for Sabitha, who undertakes tailoring at her house. Only those with motors in their households have the luxury of availing rationed water. People at the tail-end of the distribution network who cannot afford motors are left to bear the brunt.

Scanty rainfall adds to woes

The data displayed on the CM Dashboard shows that the four districts in the Rayalaseema region – Kadapa, Anantapur, Kurnool and Chittoor – received deficit rainfall during the monsoon period from June 1, 2018 to now in May 2019. Kadapa received 55.9% deficit rainfall followed by Kurnool (47.7%), Chittoor (46.5%) and Anantapur (43.4%). The scanty rainfall led the levels in the reservoirs to plummet and depletion of groundwater all over the region.

The Tungabhadra river through a low level canal (LLC) is supposed to meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of Kurnool district while KC canal caters to the needs of Kadapa district and Penna river supplies water for Anantapur. Due to uneven rainfall, these rivers fail to meet their objective almost every year. In Hindupur Assembly segment, represented by actor and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s brother-in-law Nandamuri Balakrishna, drinking water is supplied only once in 10 days by the municipality this summer. Water in private tankers is on sale for a premium ranging up to Rs 1,000.

Bojja Dasaratha Rami Reddy, president of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA), said the lack of equity in distribution of river waters is the reason for the plight of the people in Rayalaseema. Rayalaseema has a share of 133.70 tmc assured water from the Krishna river. But the quantum in use by the region fails to exceed 70 tmc due to the government’s alleged failure to build sufficient reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Srisailam dam, he claimed. The government, whichever party is in power, is always biased in favour of people in the Krishna delta in the coastal region for distribution of Krishna river water, alleges Reddy.

Rayalaseema may bask in the “glory” of producing six chief ministers for Andhra Pradesh since its formation; present incumbent N Chandrababu Naidu and his predecessor N Kiran Kumar Reddy come from Chittoor district; late Damodaram Sanjeevaiah and Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy hailed from Kurnool; Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and YS Rajasekhar Reddy came from Anantapur and Kadapa districts. “But our fate remains unchanged,” commented Dasaratha Rami Reddy.

Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states.

Views expressed are the author's own.