The Andhra Pradesh government will launch ‘Neeti Samrakshana Udyamam’ (water conservation movement) tomorrow, which is aimed at providing water security in the state and has a target of building 20,000 check dams in 90 days. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu will launch the project in Kurnool. According to preliminary estimates, a minimum of Rs 720 crore will be spent on the construction of check dams, but the expenditure may go up depending on the size of the structures, government sources said. Each check dam may cost anywhere between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 50 lakh (maximum), depending on the size.
This water conservation ‘movement’ is being launched against the backdrop of a similar scheme- Panta Sanjeevani (farm ponds), launched two years ago, under which not even 60 per cent of the targets were achieved although over Rs 1,000 crore were already spent.
The required funds for the programme will be sourced from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The AP Space Applications Centre (APSAC) conducted a study in the last six months and identified sites, where the check dams could be built, APSAC scientist K V Ramana said. He said small farmers would benefit in a big way with the construction of check dams and water harvesting measures, adding it would also help in soil conservation. The government has decided to rope in civil engineering students to oversee the check dam construction works in each constituency and mandal.
The Neeti Samrakshana Udyamam, which will be carried out between April 15 and July 15 to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs, particularly in drought-prone areas, is part of the state government’s programme of making Andhra Pradesh “drought-free” by the year 2019. Meanwhile, according to data on the Chief Minister Office Real-time Executive (CORE) Dashboard, only 58.71 per cent of the target was achieved in 2015-16 under the Panta Sanjeevani programme. While a target of digging 5.30 lakh farm ponds was set in 2015-16, only 3,11,161 ponds were actually dug at a cost of Rs 966.32 crore, the CORE Dashboard showed.
In 2016-17, 1,482 farm ponds were dug in 2016-17 as against the target of four lakh. Administrative sanction was accorded for digging 4,15,381 ponds at an estimated expenditure of Rs 4,111 crore, but only Rs 14.26 crore was spent. “Work on another 1,05,432 ponds is in progress and they will be completed soon,” a senior official said. Interestingly, despite its failure in completing the Panta Sanjeevani programme in the last two years, the government has set a fresh target of digging another four lakh farm ponds under Panta Sanjeevani in 2017-18 using NREGS funds.
Asked about this, a key minister who did not wish to be quoted, said, “Not that what all we say will be accomplished, but this is a major effort we are making. Yes, all 20,000 check dams will not be built in 90 days. And, we also have financial crunch.”