Two pilot projects taken up in villages fed with irrigated water from the Nagarjunasagar dam in Nalgonda and Khammam districts have shown that with scientific canal and groundwater management, it is possible to ensure sufficient water is available for farmers and plan better crop management.

In the first titled ‘participatory groundwater management at aquifer level, an initiative was taken to record available groundwater and the rainfall in 13 gram panchayats of Nalgonda district at a cost of Rs. 7.76 crore.

Implemented in Chandur and Marriguda mandals from 2012 onwards under the overall World Bank aided water sector improvement project, the groundwater department had first delineated the aquifer boundary after conducting intensive integrated hydro-geological, geophysical and hydrological investigations.

Interactive meetings were held with farmers about groundwater usage, conservation, depletion and so on with field visits organised to Ralegoansiddhi of social activist Anna Hazare. Groundwater management committees were formed in each village and they were trained in recording groundwater levels, rainfall and crop plans based on available groundwater.

About 14 piezometers were installed in pilot area with automatic water-level recorders and six rain gauge stations were introduced with data displayed on the notice board of the village.

With groundwater department and voluntary bodies help, action plans were made to reduce groundwater usage by adopting micro-irrigation methods, diverting to irrigated dry crops and horticulture, reducing paddy area and increasing the area under pulses and cereals.

In all, 23 check dams were built at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.78 crore with farmers panels contributing 15% cost in cash and kind.

“By October 2016, groundwater rose to nine metres, paddy was reduced from 2,521 acres to 893 acres (- 65% ) during Kharif and from 914 acres to 604 acres during Rabi in the area,” says Project Director G. Malsur.

Also, “pulses and horticultural crops were increased from 30 acres to 2,499 acres and 149 acres to 338 acres. Groundwater utilisation fell from 93% in 2010-11 to 83% in 2015-16,” he claims.

In the second pilot, conjunctive use of surface and groundwater pilot was implemented in the command area of NS scheme in three mandals – Kallur, Yenkur and Wyra – 12 villages, to demonstrate that demand can be met with judicious mix.

After a technical baseline survey, farmers interaction and installing measuring devices, farmers were motivated to construct wells and use groundwater along with canal water.

About 16 water harvesting structures were built, plus 361 additional wells, bringing 264 hectares of paddy and 731 hectares more of irrigated dry crops under cultivation. Both these could be scaled up, he adds.

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