Groundwater is irrefutably one of the vital sources of water to the human race. It accounts for over 60 percent of the irrigated area in the country and is critical to food security. It is estimated that over 70 percent of India’s food grain production materializes from irrigated agriculture, in which groundwater plays a dominant role. Groundwater is also the main source of drinking water for approximately 90 percent of the Indian rural population.
The lack of regulations and effective monitoring on the extraction of groundwater for agriculture has led to the competitive drilling of deeper wells, failure of many open and shallow bore wells, crop failures, and water insecurity in rural areas. Especially hit are the women and other vulnerable sections of the society. The drought has severely affected the districts of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh and Warangal in Telangana for several years. Majority of drinking water sources have either gone dry or have registered a reduction in yield. Most of the water storage structures are inefficient, under repair, or defunct weakening the drinking water distribution system in the area.
Water sharing from group wells, jointly owned by farmers (open/bore), is a common practice in these regions. Yield reduction from the borewells has adversely affected the area and under irrigation, crop production. Several farmers have adopted water-saving micro-irrigation equipment. But clogging of lateral pipes and drippers render these conventional drip systems dysfunctional within 2-3 years of installation, particularly in the regions having saline groundwater.
Against the above backdrop, the Sustainable Ground Water Management (SuGWM) project was initiated by Centre for World Solidarity (CWS) in four Gram Panchayats in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh and two Gram Panchayats in Warangal district of Telangana with the following objectives:
• To achieve equitable access to safe water for drinking, sanitation and domestic needs;
• To achieve fair and sustainable access to groundwater by all farmers through sharing of resources and efficient use; and
• To institutionalize social regulations governing the allocation, use, and management of water in the Gram Panchayat.
The project was initiated in July 2011 and ended in December 2016. In June 2016, the SuGWM project was institutionalized as Water and Livelihoods Foundation (WLF) to carry forward the path-breaking innovations and action research momentum.
Under the SuGWM project, CWS collaborated with three local NGO partners: Rural Integrated Development Society (RIDS), Jana Jaagriti and Centre for Rural Operation Programmes Society (CROPS) for community mobilization and with the Indian Institute of Technology – Hyderabad (IITH) for hydrogeological studies and mapping.
To mainstream the efforts, the project was linked with government departments and authorities at the time of commencement. These departments included: Rural Water Supply Department, Rural Development, Irrigation Department, Groundwater Department, District Water Management Authorities in Anantapur and Warangal
districts, State Farms Corporation of India and Agriculture and Marketing Departments.
The collaboration with the Agriculture Department helped in accessing micro-irrigation equipment from Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Integrated Scheme for Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM), and Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project (APMIP) valued at INR 6 crores covering around 3125 acres.
Collaboration with other NGOs, such as Bala Vikasa and Lodi Multipurpose Social Service Society in Warangal district, helped in the desilting of percolation tanks and establishment of Reverse Osmosis (RO ) plants for drinking water in the area.
APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
The intervention comprised customization of the drip irrigation system using a simpler ‘button dripper’ and promotion of re-use of old lateral pipes. This system was designed for one acre of land, which required no maintenance and worked with low-yield agriculture wells under low pressure. The project aimed at demonstrating the ‘one-acre drip’ model, capacity-building of local youth through technical support and providing incentives for its adoption.
The customied system costed 50-60 per cent less as compared to conventional models and required less maintenance. Further, the customised system performed better in low-yield wells and poor water quality. The customized unit worked well even at lower pressure (1.0 kg/cm2 as against 2.5 kg/cm2 under the conventional unit) and discharge (5,000 litres/hour as against 10, 000 litres/hour under the conventional unit).
Venkata Ramamohan Ramachandrula
Water and Livelihoods Foundation