For Pacharla villagers, nothing matters more than their mini irrigation tank

For Pacharla villagers, nothing matters more than their mini irrigation tank

For Pacharla villagers, nothing matters more than their mini irrigation tank

With the Telangana government’s lift irrigation project running late, people are dependent on rainfall for cultivation and livestock management


Gadwal, Telangana: Water is a priceless commodity for the farmers living in villages beyond the barrage across River Tungabhadra in Jogulamba Gadwal district of Telangana. Located along the state borders with Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, many villages in Rajoli block do not receive water from the interstate Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme (RDS). Though agriculture is the mainstay, farmers depend on samidoddi kunta (a mini irrigation tank) to water their crops and quench the thirst of livestock.

Around 26,000 acres in Rajoli block depend on rain-fed agriculture. The Tummilla Lift Irrigation Project coming under the RDS was supposed to ensure supply to these lands. However, delays in project execution have been hampering the release of water. Irony is that all the affected villages are located within 30 km of the canal that gets its supply from the RDS barrage.


Water shortage has always been an issue, despite the Krishna and Tungabhadra crisscrossing the semi-arid lands of Jogulamba Gadwal, Wanaparthy, Narayanpet, Nagarkurnool and Mahabubnagar districts. This is because Telangana forms the northeastern part of the Deccan Plateau.  The Telangana Plateau is located around 600 m above the sea level. 

Take the case of Pacharla village coming under the village panchayat of the same name. Pacharla can irrigate its 100 acres only by storing rainwater in the mini irrigation tank managed by the Rajoli block and Pacharla panchayat authorities. The remaining 25,900 acres in the other five villages — Mondoddi, Tanagala, Tandrapadu, Uppal and Tummilla  are irrigated in the same manner.  


Besides growing only rain-fed crops, the villagers fulfill their water needs by drawing water from wells, borewells and ponds. However, they have better options like Mission Bhagiratha and hand pumps when it comes to drinking water.


"We have developed the mini tank on the village outskirts," said Pacharla sarpanch P Tirumal Reddy. Panchayat secretary K Vijayalaxmi added that farmers cultivated chillies and onions. “At least 500 small and marginal farmers benefit from the tank," she said.

Students and Teachers Independence Day Rally in Patcharla Village (Photo - Venkateshwarlu Boya, 101Reporters)

Recognising a need

The people of Pacharla recognised the importance of a water retention structure after a drought hit the region in the 90s. They approached the Mandal Development Office seeking a solution. The natural tank was present in the area for over two decades. However, the mud from it was removed only in 2014 to enhance its water capacity. After that, no further work happened until 2022. 

Measures like planting trees around the tank began on April 10, 2022. Of the Rs 10 lakh funds made available to the panchayat, Rs 6.67 lakh came from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. The state irrigation department accounted for the rest. 

Beautification measures, including planting of saplings, were completed using the Central funds. Twenty MGNREGA job card holders worked on this initiative, while field assistants, panchayat secretary and village sarpanch offered all possible assistance. However, the work is not yet over. It is likely to be completed only by 2027. 

“Almost 20% of the tank renovation work that began in 2014 is complete. The remaining activities, including construction of a compound wall, culverts and approach roads, are pending. In 2022-23, we spent Rs 3.4 lakh of the sanctioned Rs 6.67 lakh MGNREGA fund, thus creating 3,467 person-days,” Rajoli block Technical Work Inspector Mamata Kaluva told 101Reporters


What turned out to be a lifeline for the pond was the 2014 launch of Telangana government’s Mission Kakatiya project, which aimed at restoring the lost glory of minor irrigation structures in the state with community participation. In July the same year, the state irrigation department carried out its first census on minor irrigation sources in Telangana. It assessed the presence of 46,531 tanks in the state. As a follow-up, the department tried to restore/renovate all of them the next five years, taking up 20% of the tanks each year.  


Now, the Pacharla tank brims with water when the village sees good rains. During the dry months, it is a cool shade for both humans and cattle.

MGNREGA Worker's job card and work demand (Photo - Venkateshwarlu Boya, 101Reporters)

Delayed promises


Tummilla Lift Irrigation Scheme under RDS is meant to cater to the whole of Rajoli, Manopad, Ieeja and Undavelli blocks in Alampur taluk. The farmlands of Pacharla and surrounding villages are bound to benefit from the project's second phase involving construction work on Mallamma Kunta Reservoir.


The Tummilla project was announced by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao in 2016, for which a grant of Rs 834.60 crore was promised then. It was meant to make up for the incomplete Tungabhadra water supply initiative under the RDS for the last ayakattu farmers. However, delays in work, increasing material costs and corruption have affected it.  


The first phase of the project was completed  in  June 2021 at a cost of Rs 389 crore, with two pumps of 5.5 MW capacity installed to pump 340 cusecs of water, and another pump with a capacity of 10.5 MW installed to pump 392 cusecs. 


Already 55,600 acres have been irrigated in the first phase, while another 31,900 acres will get water in the second phase. In total, the Telangana Irrigation Department is working with the target of irrigating 87,500 acres as part of the Tummilla scheme in two phases, but proper monitoring and supervision are not happening. 


For example, the work related to the Tummilla scheme on Mallamma Kunta Reservoir, Julakal and Vallur villages were to be completed in the second phase, for which the state government had sanctioned Rs 394 crore in administrative grants. Though the deadline lapsed in July, there has been no progress in the work even now.


An exemplary effort


Pacharla serves as a model for many semi-arid villages in Telangana, where migration due to lack of water and resources has always been high.  


Medikunda Hanumanthu (49) has two acres of cotton crop that gets water from the village’s mini irrigation tank. His family members tend to the crop. “We are glad that the mini tank helps us to cultivate our land,” he said.


“In our village, we collectively take decisions regarding developmental works. We discuss farmers’ problems in a meeting at Rythu Veddika Bhavan monthly. For us, the mini irrigation tank is a god’s gift. It is a symbol of our happiness. That is why we even hoist a national flag on the tank on August 15,” said Patcharla Raithu Samithi president Peddi Reddy (65). 


Earlier, Independence Day celebrations were held at Pacharla village panchayat office. Since last year, the official flag-hoisting and recital of the national anthem have been held on the tank premises also.  


“A fair is organised every year at avvagudi (a temple) near the tank. We have installed Lord Hanuman's statue in the nearby Guntirangayya temple to appease Lord Varuna to have mercy on us, bringing good rains and thus filling our tank with water. Farmers celebrate Dussehra with joy on its premises," said Pacharla sarpanch Tirumal Reddy (48).

The people of the village want to convert the tank into a tourist spot and facilitate those who come there for the annual fair. Tirumal hoped a park would come up along the banks of the tank within the next two years. 

Edited by Rekha Pulinnoli

Cover Photo - India's Independence Day Celebrations at Samidoddi Kunta Mini Irrigation Tank (Photo - Venkateshwarlu Boya, 101Reporters)


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