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Project to check shifting sand dunes takes root

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IN SEARCH OF STABILITY: Labourers putting up wind-barriers on the sand dunes
IN SEARCH OF STABILITY: Labourers putting up wind-barriers on the sand dunes

B. Chandrashekhar

Plantation programme in 26 acres of Government land

The deposits developed 150 years ago during heavy floodingSince then the dunes have been moving in the direction of the windThe shifting sand is an impediment to farming

KANEKAL (ANANTAPUR DT.): The infamous sand dunes in Kanekal and Bommanahal areas in the district, which were instrumental in getting the unique Desert Development (Prevention) Programme sanctioned a decade ago, remain the same. Funds spent on their treatment so far have failed to make any impact.

Though the formation was analysed as mere shifting of sand due to heavy winds by the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), political parties and non-governmental organisations still believe they are signs of desertification.

The people of about a dozen villages along the course of Hagari river are affected by shifting sand deposits creating problems in cultivation and transportation. However, they came in handy to an enthusiastic film-maker in cutting down the production cost of a few scenes of his film, which he originally planned to shoot in the Rajasthan desert, a couple of years back.

Efforts in vain

The DDP scheme had helped the district get about 500 watersheds and hundreds of crores of rupees sanctioned. A portion of the amount was also spent on containing the shifting of sand dunes, but in vain. Geographically, the sand dunes are spread in about 603 acres covering 10 villages in the two mandals. Of this, 534 acres is private land and the remaining 68.11 acres is Government land. "The shifting sand deposits have spoiled any chance of good crop in my five acres for the last five years," complains Palleppa, a farmer of Meendlapalli in Kanekal mandal.

Shifting of sand deposits occurs mostly during the windy season, known as 'gali kalam' from March to July.

The sterile sand deposits in the area have a 150-year-old history. Large quantity of sand was deposited along the western banks of Hagari river during one of the heavy flood seasons and it keeps shifting in the direction of the wind to this day.

"The sand shifts westward every year," Vannurappa, an 80-year-old farmer of Malyam village explains.

Farmers in the area fight nature by planting tree branches and bushes in rows across their fields to prevent the sand depositing.

Their efforts bear fruit sometimes as they get reasonably good crop. But, every farmer can't afford such efforts, as they require some investment.

Plantation

In its first sincere effort to prevent shifting of sand the district administration has taken up plantation programme in about 26 acres Government land in Kalekurthi village of Kanekal mandal with the help of DWMA.

"An amount of Rs. 81 lakhs has been earmarked for treating the entire area of 603 acres in the three-year scheme. Plantation of fruit-bearing and soil-binding plants, which would also act as wind barriers when they grow," would be taken up in phases, Project Director of DWMA, E.N. Srinivasulu, stated.

In the first phase, about 48,500 plants were planted in 26 acres in June last year. Species like mango, sapota, umran (ber), henna, jasmine, jatropha, pongamia, cassia siamia, stylo hamata, doll bergiasiso, acacia biloba, acacia trotilis and others were planted in belts.

"They would be helped to stabilise with drip and sprinkler systems in summer," Divisional Forest Officer, Kalyanadurg MDT, P. Srinivasa Rao, who is in-charge of the treatment scheme, said.

In subsequent phases, farmers owning private land would be encouraged to take up fruit tree plantation.

The farmers would be supplied with fruit plants free of cost by the DWMA. Plantation of eucalyptus and casuarina would be taken up on a large-scale and the belts would be developed as wind breakers, the field officials explained.


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