Hi-tech Hyderabad stares at a drought
Hi-Tech Hyderabad might soon have to invoke the rain gods for its next glass of water. The city has water stock for another 60 days following which Hyderabad will slip into an acute drought, warn ground water offi cials. The city is already reeling under an alarming 26 per cent drinking water defi cit and a severely receded water-table. Its only hope now is a bountiful monsoon.
A quick scan of some residential pockets across Hyderabad indeed paints a dehydrated picture. Not only have more than 50 per cent of bore-wells in the city already dried up, thanks to meager showers last year, but even Manjeera (drinking water) supplies have thinned drastically post the onset of summer. As against the regular two-hour schedule, the water board has now restricted its water supplies to just about half an hour every alternate day in most parts of Hyderabad. Chances are that this time span will be further shortened if water levels in the city’s reservoirs do not improve soon. That the already grave water crisis is only headed southwards is also obvious from the groundwater department’s new ruling introduced this year. The department has issued a complete ban on the drilling of bore-wells for all purposes apart from drinking.
Latest statistics on Hyderabad’s depleted water wealth points to this rude reality. The capacity of Osmansagar and Himayathsagar, the city’s two primary drinking water sources, are abysmal. The full tank levels of both these reservoirs, owing to a 20 per cent drop in rainfall last season, have dropped signifi cantly over the last few months with water board offi cials fearing a near-dry situation soon. Considering that a whopping 70 per cent of Hyderabad’s populace depends on the infl ow from here, an unhealthy monsoon is bound to spell doom for an already p a r c h e d c i t y .
T h o u g h marginal, the Krishna water too has witnessed a recession in its level, thus adding to the miseries of the aam aadmi. Roughly 30 per cent of denizens, largely residing in the peripheral areas, draw their daily drinking water supplies from Krishna, phase-I and II. The water from the Manjeera and Singur reservoirs that also contribute towards AP’s total requirement are largely diverted towards rural water supplies. While a drop in levels here might not be of immediate concern to Hyderabadis, the fact that the city’s ground water depth too has slipped by an additional two metres (in comparison to last year) this year is defi -nitely worrisome. As per records available with the state ground water department, the water in the city has now depleted to a startling 9.63 metres.
The last time the table had receded beyond the 10 metre mark (the height equivalent to a three-storied building) was during the droughtridden period between 2003 and 2005. The supply has predictably been unable to meet the growing demand. In 2011, the demand for water qas 459 mgd and 469 mgd in 2012 but the water board has been able to supply just about 340 mgd of water since 2008. In 2013, the demand for water is expected to be 480 mgd. According to water board records, around 1.75 lakh customers who were getting water on a daily basis are now getting it on alternate days. Although the water board is supplying water for one hour, it’s barely a trickle in some city households.
That a chunk of the city’s 87.5 lakh population has resorted to packaged water this summer, therefore, comes as no surprise. Right from the near-dry Marredepally colonies to the narrow bylanes of the Old City to even the plush residential pockets of Jubilee Hills, Hyderabadis are spending thousands of rupees every month to supplement this acute water shortage, which many claim is worse than what they have seen in the past fi ve years.
“Most pockets in the area (including Road No 36, 10, 40, 41 among others) have no supply of Manjeera water,” said B S Srinivasan, treasurer of the Jubilee Hills Residents’ Welfare Association pointing out how residents here are entirely dependent on bottled water for domestic usage. The situation is much the same at Alwal where denizens rue a poor supply once in three days. The unregulated exploitation of ground water, rampant in this area, has only made matters worse, they add. “We have no choice but to completely rely on tankers now,” said G V Rao, secretary of the Greater Alwal Allied Service Association that has around 29 colonies registered with it. Such grouses are voiced by Hyderabadis living even in areas such as Karkhana, Tarnaka, Kondapur, Begumpet or even far-fl ung Yapral. Plagued by a scanty alternate day water supply, residents from these localities complain how a hefty sum of their monthly budget is now being diverted towards quenching their thirst. “Even our monthly maintenance cost for the apartment has gone up from Rs 700 to Rs 1,500 because of this,” said Aju Thomas, a resident of Yapral.
While the locals of New Vasavi Nagar (in Karkhana) are trying hard to seek government permission to dig a few more bore-wells in the area, the exercise could well be futile. This, as the receded water table has made scarce the availability of ground water up to 1,200 feet. Until now, water in the city was not more than 500 feet below the earth. “Most of the existing bore-wells here have dried up. Unless new ones are dug, it’s going to be a tough summer for us,” said Karun Kumar, president of the colony’s welfare association. In the districts of Andhra Pradesh too the water story is much the same. Poor rains coupled with soaring mercury levels have led to the drying up of all water sources. Ground water levels in several pockets have crossed the 75 feet mark with offi cials of the department speculating a further dip over the next few weeks. “In fact water is available at 75 feet only at select points. In most areas even after 300 feet there is no water,” said a senior offi cial of the rural water supplies wing referring to parts of Guntur district.
While experts suggest the setting up of recharge pits as a viable solution to this problem, they maintain that containing the misuse of ground water is the fi rst step towards addressing this shortage. “The continuous exploitation is not allowing water levels to rise. Considering that only 2.5 per cent of the earth (largely granite) we are sitting on can hold water, such excessive use is bound to create a severe demand-supply gap,” R Rangarajan, scientist with the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad.
The Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply& Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) admits that the situation is grave but feels it is too early to ring the alarm bell. While the consistent fall in the levels of the Hyderabad’s two major reservoirs is a matter of concern, offi cials feel that the forthcoming monsoon will address the issue. “We are worried about the Himayathsagar and Osmansagar levels. But I think we can meet the 340 mgd demand of the city for the next two months with what is available. After that the reservoirs will get recharged with the rains,” said Adhar Sinha, managing director, HMWS&SB.