Nyamathi village in Honalli Taluk is facing a serious water crisis.
Govindaraj has to walk at least three kilometres everyday to fetch water from the village ponds. This is not just one farmer’s condition, but a lot more than we think. The father of two children and a farmer by profession, Govindaraj has been farming in Nymati village for more than 30 years. While, in the cities children wake up early to go to school, here in this village kids wake up early to go along with their parents to fetch water.
Frank Rijsberman, who has been the Director General of Global Green Institute, has said, “When an individual does not have access to safe and affordable water to satisfy her or his needs for drinking, washing or their livelihoods we call that person water insecure”. Hence when a large number of people in an area are water insecure for a considerable period of time, in that case, we can name that area water scarce”.
This cumbersome practice of fetching water everyday has taken its toll on the village. Like Govindraj, many farmers have to go through this painful task to address their basic needs. This has created lots of stress in their simple lifestyle.
Nyamathi is a densely populated village in Honnali Taluk. The population of the town is 9288. Nyamathi, also known as Nyamti, is considered as the business town of Honnali. The reason for this being that the village plays a vital role in the import and export of vegetables to other states, districts and other taluks. Water is the basic natural resource that is required for our existence. The whole village relies on annual rainfall and river water (from the Tungabhadra river). Rain water is the main water source for this village.
The villagers of Nyamti Taluk have come forward to share their experience on water scarcity. Govindaraj cultivates agricultural crops like Maize, Areca nut, and Brinjal. A crop like Areca nut requires ample water. The monsoon season lasts from December till March. “Water crisis have led to migration of farmers from one village to another. Since there is no water, many farmers have given up farming. They have opted for a more suitable job that pays them reasonably. Many of my friends have shifted from one village to another”, said Govindaraj. “There is no use of considering bore wells as the source of water as they are depleting. The only source we can think of is rainfall.”
Tungabhadra River flows through Honnali Taluk. The water from the river is directed only up to Nyamti and is not extended to villages that are situated far from this village. The main water sources of this village are river water and rainfall. There are about 15 bore wells that are required to supply water to the entire village. Each of the bore wells are dug 600 feet to 650 feet (or more) below the ground level.
“Even at 600 feet to 650 feet, we still do not get water. For the past three years, our village has been witnessing water shortage. It is the Panchayat that delivers water to the entire village. Each family is supposed to get more than 500 litres of water every day. But, they receive less water compared to what has been promised by the Panchayat. The water is released to individual houses through these bore wells. After the month of March, Panchayat regulates the water supply so that each household receives the water once in 15 days.
Gram Panchayat member, Mustafizulla, said, “With the increase in population in the village, the demand for water is also increasing day by day. The village has not witnessed a proper rainfall over the three years. The average level of rainfall recorded in this village is less that 800mm. Sometimes, it goes below 600 too. We are planning to create awareness among the villagers.”
Considering the ever increasing population and the decrease in rainfall, the villagers of Nyamathi have to look for an alternative source of water for their daily needs. The most astonishing fact that I heard from the farmers is that the concept of rain water harvesting has never existed in the village. One cannot keep buying water from outside. If yes, how much can they buy? Can the farmers, whose cultivation has been widely affected due to less rainfall, afford to buy water by paying every day? The people of Nyamti are now subjected to such plight.
”I am not aware of water harvesting techniques. If the Panchayat is ready to invest time in us to explain what water harvesting is and how it should be done, we are very well ready to invest our time as well in learning and conserving rain water,” said Govindaraj, the sole bread winner of the family, finding it hard to make ends meet and sustain his family of four with the small income he receives.
But not all the villagers know where the water comes from or how it should be conserved.
Tahsildar of the taluk, Mr.N.K Nagaraj also raised concerns over Nyamti running out of water. He claims rain water harvesting can be a lifesaver for the farmers. Despite directing river water to the village, shortage still remains. Government has implemented many schemes to save rain water. But so far, nothing has been carried out in this village. With the increase in population, the usage and demand for water increases. I hope this village does not completely run out of water, said the Tahsildar, who was very uncertain about a workable solution for the problem.
The people in the village receive water once in 15 days. Clearly, once they receive the water from the bore wells or tanks or from the river, they store the water for future use. Until then, one does not have enough water to even wash clothes. Farmers raised concerns over not having been able to shower because of a serious lack of water, said Lokesh KH, a farmer who owns two acres of land. He added, “Water is required for both cattle and personal purposes. As I own two acres of land, lots of water is required for irrigation apart from the water that we use for basic needs. It is not just for us, we have farm animals as well, which require huge amount of water.”
Apart from the bore wells, there are four tanks in the village. The water from the tanks is diverted to filters that are installed in the village for getting clean distilled water. The water from the river, before directing the water to the households, is first tested for the hard water content in the water and then delivered for drinking purposes. Adequate amount of water must be supplied to the crop when the crop needs it. During the monsoon, water is sufficient enough for irrigation purposes and for personal use. The crisis originates when the water is not collected and not stored properly.
It is the responsibility of the Gram Panchayat to create awareness around water conservation. The annual rainfall of this Taluk is less than 600mm, which sheds light on why the village ran out of water consistently for the past three years. According to many officials and the villagers themselves, the bore wells are found to be depleting. Below average rainfall is one of the main factors that have led to a water shortage in this village.
Another farmer from the same village named S.V Nagaraj is also subjected to this plight. He cultivates maize. From his house to the nearby pond, the man has to travel about three kms every day. “We have worked hard in the field. Now it seems to me that hard work is not taking us anywhere. We have not been able to meet the production deadline due to low availability of water”.
A constructive solution, although expensive would be drip irrigation; many experts think that drip irrigation will be an effective method if introduced to farmers. Every drop of water will be utilised for the crops. By adopting this method, water can also be used efficiently and conservatively without wastage. There are many measures that can be taken by the government so that this village in particular and nearby villages do not face further shortage. Watershed management system can be followed from time to time and must be monitored correctly. The members of the Panchayat, when asked about rain water harvesting system, said that not many people know of water conservation through rain. Rain water harvesting system is not practiced conservatively in Nyamti. Villagers are found to be water illiterate.
Farmers like Basuraj have adopted drip irrigation. According to them, it has been proven successful. Not all the farmers have land to carry this process. On the other end, there are many farmers who would want to invest in drip irrigation, but cannot. Karnataka government has introduced drip irrigation in the village, but not to the entire village. Only farmers who have their own land can practice this. Basuraj owns two acres of land where he cultivates maize. The water that they receive from the bore wells are being stored in huge containers. Once the water is received, it is stored in their own farm ponds for future use. Basuraj and his family explained the scenario where they do not wash their clothes until days just to save the water that they get.
Agricultural Officer Veerabhadrappa B.H provides clarity on how water shortage can be solved. He explained lift irrigation, where water is lifted from the river and is stored in farm ponds and tanks. More micro irrigation system can be introduced. Elements like sprinklers are now made available to the farmers who practice cultivation on their own land. Although, not many sprinklers are being provided due to a lack of funds, 90 per cent of the subsidy is provided by the government. He also cites that it is the responsibility of the people as well to use water wisely. Many farmers do not allow encroachment of ponds because they do not want half their land being encroached to enlarge the area of the pond. This is where they fail to realize that, if the pond is large, more water can be collected and stored. Ground water must be properly recharged. Check dams can be constructed across the village. As land can be encroached upon, there is little chance that the farmers will support the construction.
He also mentioned that earlier the bore wells were placed at the 200ft to 250ft. As years passed, the bore wells started to deplete. Now, one cannot find water even if the bore wells are constructed more than 600ft below the surface. Tube-wells that help in pumping groundwater can be installed.
A solution to solve the water crisis can be explained at three levels. Firstly, rain water must be stored. The storage capacity must be increased; more farm ponds must be made available. Secondly, water lifting process must be made mandatory (water lifted from the river) as bore wells are already drying out. To utilise the water that is left for irrigation, the farmers of the village have started practicing drip irrigation, where every drop of water is utilised without wastage. Check dams must be constructed. Cooperation from the farmers is equally important to solve this crisis. Farmers have accepted that drip irrigation has so far been successful and has helped in producing crops even when there is a scarcity of water in the village. The consumption of water for daily needs must also be monitored by a family member. Not everyone in the village is aware of the term water literacy. Water literacy is a term that is used to describe a person who is aware of issues pertaining to water. If the villagers were taught how to conserve rain water, probably the villagers could have saved themselves from this misery. Water is a key ingredient of agriculture. The productivity and sustainability depends completely on timely availability of water for the crops.
Dr. Shivaram K.V, a water conservationist said, “Water conversation can be done to counter the existing water crisis. The problem starts when the monsoon stops. We forget to save the rain water for our future use. During summer, after March, we usually witness water shortage. Since there is very less storage capacity left, the rain water runs into the drain which flows through the river and then to the sea. Lately, over the years, the water table is depleting. To solve this, two things has to be kept in mind. Firstly, rain water charging must be done so that ground level water comes up. Secondly, more voluntary groups must be formed. Rain water must be reused. Since, crops like areca nut requires ample of water, farmers have to depend only on monsoon which has become erratic due to global warming. Farmers could opt for crops that consume less water. Farming community should also switch over to drip irrigation with subsidies from the government to the marginal farmers, as available water resources can be used judiciously. This is also a long term solution for water conservation, not just in this taluk but across India.”
Water bodies should have been de-silted and should be free from encroachment. For example, Chennai city experienced heavy monsoon in 2015 and caused heavy flooding due to water body encroachment and the fact that lakes had not been de-silted for decades. This had led to 85 per cent of the monsoon rain going off to the sea. However, if this entire amount of water had been saved, it could have served Chennai for the next ten years.
Frank Rijsberman bit in the second paragraph: Case study Layyah, Pakistan by Tahir Husnain Khan: Water scarcity and its impact on agriculture)
Concluding paragraph: The Hindu