Unprecedented drought in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh may force the governments in the two Telugu states to impose curbs on the supply of water to alcohol distilleries and plants of soft drinks in the next two months.
The groundwater table has gone down in the two states by 40-50% and all major irrigation reservoir water levels have reached the bottom 20% of their capacity by the third week of April. The crisis-control measures of the state may include cutting down the water supply to cola (soft drink) companies that consume 40-50 lakh litres daily and beer breweries that consume up to 50 lakh litres daily, and stopping cultivation of water intensive crops like sugarcane and tobacco and construction activity that requires a lot of water for curing buildings, sources in both governments said. Sources in the irrigation departments in both states told The Sunday Guardian that the governments were compelled to restrict usage of water for luxurious or commercial purposes in view of the strict monitoring of the situation by the Supreme Court which is currently hearing a petition on the drought situation in the country.
Whatever little water is there in the major reservoirs in both the states will last till the first week of June. Officials said that if there are no rains, it would trigger a huge crisis. Telangana Irrigation Minister T. Harish Rao told this newspaper: “The government’s focus is to ensure that there is no scarcity of drinking water in any village.”
The ground situation is serious as more and more villages are reporting zero source of drinking water this summer.
“There are 1,852 villages that are totally dependent on the supply of water through water tankers and another 4,950 villages that are dependent on the rural water supply schemes and every day 50 more villages are reporting zero source of drinking water,” said a senior official in Telangana government.
The groundwater table in the two states has come down from 300 ft in upland areas to 600 ft. In some areas in Telangana like Ranga Reddy and Medak, which are dependent on rains, the groundwater table has gone down up to 1,200 ft, from last year’s 800 ft. In seven out of 10 districts of Telangana, digging borewells this summer is a crime and attracts penal action.
In Hyderabad city, as many as 800 localities are entirely dependent on water supplied through tankers, while the municipal water is supplied on alternate days at the rate of 200 litres per household. Thousands of illegal borewells have been dug by private suppliers on the outskirts of Hyderabad, prompting district collectors to disconnect all illegal borewells and capture water from the private mafia during the summer. “We would like to curtail water supply to beer breweries by at least 25% from the middle of June, if there are no rains by then,” a senior official in the irrigation department said on the condition of anonymity.
He, however, made it clear that the department of excise and prohibition and the managements of the beer companies would be taken into confidence before taking any decision on supply of water to them.
Currently, there are five active beer breweries in Telangana, while another nine are in operation in Andhra Pradesh, accounting for about one crore cases of beer (each case contains 12 bottles of 650ml).
Similar treatment would be given to soft drink manufacturers who draw water from canals and irrigation tanks, mostly in Andhra Pradesh. In Telangana, there are around five cola plants that draw water from their own groundwater sources. As of now, there is no proposal to restrict supply of water drawn from borewells, but officials haven’t ruled that out in the coming months. Already, the agriculture departments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have started a campaign against cultivation of water guzzling sugarcane and tobacco crops this year. The Hyderabad High Court has sought details of measures taken by the governments to tackle the drinking water scarcity.