Mahabubnagar: The water crisis in Chennai has caught the attention of one and all across the globe, including the World Health Organization, which has termed it a global phenomenon pointing to a dire water crisis awaiting humanity in the coming years. However, in Telangana, a remote hamlet in a drought-prone zone in Addakal mandal has proved otherwise.
Thimmaipally Thanda, located 10 km from NH 44 from Katavaram stage in Mahabubnagar district, is a visitor’s wonder, with the hamlet which recently got upgraded as a gram panchayat, being surrounded by rocky hillocks with beautiful stone formations. While the hamlet used to be a gram panchayat in 2015 before reorganization of GPs, a sincere effort was made by the Lambadas living in the hamlet and also the officials of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), to take up water harvesting as a social movement.
Lacchya Naik (65), a resident of the hamlet, who passed away last year, was the man behind the great effort which has become an example for the entire State, if not the entire country to follow.
For the past couple of decades, though his land fell right by the side of hillocks from where rainwater used to flow, due to decades of drought, his land was left mostly barren. He had dug three borewells, which had also dried up. Though he was not formally educated, he knew the laws of nature and how the physics and geography of the location of his land was good enough to try something new, not only benefiting him, but also many others in his hamlet.
He gave consent to the NREGS staff to dig a percolation tank in his land, so that the natural flow of rainwater could be contained in his land and the excess water could flow downstream. It was not just 2 or 3 guntas, but he let the officials dig a percolation tank in two acres of his land.
The most significant aspect of the tank’s construction was that the villagers used stones and small boulders, which were naturally available in the hillocks around the village, to do re-vetting for the bund, after they used the same soil which was dug, to be used as the bund. This was the kind of idea and quality of work not even contractors of minor irrigation projects would use in present times.
Finally, a percolation which was named after him, ‘Lacchya Kunta’, was completed in the same year. Since 2016, even after a minor spell of rain, the tank is getting filled with rainwater and the family, which earlier used to grow rainfed crops like jowar and castor, has been cultivating paddy, maize and groundnuts.
Not just in Lacchya’s land, but also in other farmers’ lands, percolation tanks were dug by the NREGS staff, with the help of villagers. Heerya Naik is one such farmer who owns six acres of land. Not just a beautiful percolation tank was dug in his land on similar lines, but also a spillway was constructed, from where excess water could fall in a small canal and flow downstream.
Of all, four percolation tanks were dug in the remote hamlet at a cost of just Rs 13,74,785, which were able to recharge around 11 borewells, irrigating around 100-125 acres of land, which earlier used to fall in a critical drought-prone zone.
Groundwater levels up
According to Addakal MPDO K Prabhakar, 1.70 crore litres of water can be stored in these four percolation tanks if they get filled once during the monsoons and 3.70 crore litres of water could be available if the water is used and a second rain fills up the tanks. This effort has not only improved the living conditions of farmers, but also contributed to the development of agriculture and increase in groundwater levels in the hamlet.
Not digging just percolation tanks as part of NREGS works, by digging around 2,000 boundary trenches, by digging five farm ponds (five more are in progress) and by digging 92 soak-pits in the hamlet (215 were sanctioned), the villagers and the NREGS staff, including technical assistant Sathyam (who is now serving Wanaparthy district), field assistant Raju, engineering constultant G Ramesh and MPDO K Prabhakar Reddy have done a great job in trying something new and succeeding with their idea, by not only enriching the lives of Lambadas of the hamlet, but also playing their part in proving to the world that simple things done with limited available resources, can go a long way in solving even the most critical issues which mankind faces today with regard to drinking water and irrigation.