Rayalaseema’s water tanks are now a thing of the past

The first major water body to succumb in the Rayalaseema region was the Avilala tank, which was bulldozed and levelled for a Congress plenary in 1992 which was attended by lakhs of people.

Now, the Rayalacheruvu tank and the Swarnamukhi near Tirupati stare at a similar fate as rampant encroachments threaten to wipe the water bodies out of existence.

Rayalaseema region used to have nearly 20,000 minor irrigation tanks, according to historical accounts. Of these, 8,000 were in Chittoor district alone. The centuries-old tanks used to have a chain-link system to ensure that the water overflowing from one is channelised to the next one downstream. This is precisely why water flowing down from Karnataka used to go up to Nellore coast by gravity. Rather than the medium and minor projects, the region used to depend heavily on tank-based irrigation. With the encroachment of tank bunds and their beds, the area and thus the holding capacity of the tanks started shrinking.

Rayalacheruvu, located 15 km south of Tirupati in Ramachandrapuram mandal and the largest in Rayalaseema region, is one such classic example. Work on the tank was started by Vijayanagara founders Harihara Rayalu and Bukka Rayalu during 1336-1340 AD, but was completed by Sri Krishna Devaraya during 1509-1520. Earlier, it used to provide water to five surrounding mandals, but encroachment of its bed and indiscriminate sinking of bore-wells eroded its importance.

An estimated 1,500 acres of its 2,000 acre bed is under encroachment, which has a telling effect on its holding capacity. "When the tank had water to a depth of 25 feet, it used to recharge groundwater till Tirupati on the north, Chittoor on its south-west and Puttur to its south-east. Now, it does not even hold water up to a depth of 10 feet," lamented CPI-M district leader Kandharapu Murali, who has staged several agitations in the past for its revival.

Another sordid tale is that of River Swarnamukhi, which has been rendered lifeless today due to unrestrained occupation of its flow area.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 12:50:20 PM |

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