Erratic release of water since 2004 may force them to change crop

The heavy rains in the Western Ghats are causing the tributaries of River Krishna to swell discharging water into the reservoirs that were nearly empty till the end of July. While the ideal time for release of water for the kharif crop in Krishna Delta is June, several factors seem to be contributing to the delay. This year the water was released over 45 days behind schedule.

The water available in Nagarjuna Sagar Project has a direct bearing on the productivity in over 13 lakh acres in West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam districts with water distributed through canals that originate at Prakasam Barrage.

According to data available for the past 15 years water was released without fail in June from 1987 till 2004, except 1994-95 and 1999-2000. Even in these two years it was released in July.

The release of water became erratic after 2004 with the weather playing truant and the capacity of the reservoirs in the upper reaches of the river being increased. The reservoir to be worst affected in the process was Nagarjuna Sagar. While the average annual surplus at Prakasam Barrage was 664 tmcft a maximum surplus of 1,334 tmcft was recorded in 1994-95.

An analysis of the water availability in the particular reservoir in the last three year is enough to show the drastic changes. More then 300 tmcft of water was available in the reservoir during June, July, August and September in 2011, a very good year by all standards.

In 2012, the water available in the reservoir ranged between 133.59 tmcft and 142.61 tmcft compared to the full reservoir capacity of 312 tmcft, which is less than half. In 2013, the water available in the reservoir was an average of 150 tmcft in June and July and luckily the rains came and in August, 296 tmcft was available in the reservoir, according to the data Reservoir Storage Monitoring System maintained by the Irrigation Department and the Centre for Good Governance.

Krishna Delta farmers have been cultivating paddy since Sir Arthur Cotton built an anicut across the Krishna River here over 150 years ago. With the change in the availability of water may force the farmers to change the crop they have to cultivate to survive.

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