Saline groundwater leaves villagers thirsting on river islands

14_09_2017_006_034_011They live in the midst of coconut lagoons and man groves. But life’s not rosy for the lakhs living in islands on the mouth of the Godavari and Krishna in Andhra Pradesh.

The two major islands and over two dozen islets face a severe shortage of potable water almost round the year. It gets worse during summer and in years when rain is deficient. The river water is not an option because currents carry the sea water right up the mouth and upstream turning the river saline around island villages up to 15 km away from the Bay of Bengal.

Ask Bomidi Sri Lakshmi, a farmer from Edurumondi, an island in the Krishna. She wakes up early and marches to a water pit fed by a freshwater aquifer. On other islandsmany of which do not have freshwater pits–they have to queue up at water tankers supplied by philanthropists or ferry water from the mainland by boats. Only the main islands–Diviseema (Krishna) and Konaseema (Godavari), two major riverine islands in south India–are connected by bridges which allow residents here to get piped supply .

There are no water treatment or desalination plants on the islands or islets. As a result, vast stretches of farmlands have turned barren; cattle are in dire straits. “Sometimes, the animals are forced to drink from the highly polluted river. The only source of freshwater for the villages is the channels from the main canals of Prakasam Barrage, some 50 km upstream,“ says Venkateswaramma, a farmer from Gollamanda.

The last time the Krishna estuary had potable freshwater was in October 2009 when the river was in spate.

Experts blame the scarcity of potable water on the reduced inflows from upstream, frequent failure of the monsoon, seawater ingress, overdrawing of groundwater and loss of vegetation. “The scarcity is mostly due to man-made factors. The available water cannot be used even for washing clothes and utensils,“ say S Srinivasa Rao, an academician from Vijayawada.

AP CHANTS JALA SIRI

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday said his government aims to make the state a role model in protecting and reviving rivers. Speaking at an event held in Vijayawada as part of the Sadhguru’s pan-India Rally for Rivers, the chief minister said his government has launched the Jala Siri programme to conserve groundwater resources.Sadhguru expressed concern over the depletion of water in perennial rivers. Later, he left for Hyderabad, where he will address public events on Thursday and Friday.

Syed Akbar

Sep 14 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Post source : http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31808&articlexml=Saline-groundwater-leaves-villagers-thirsting-on-river-islands-14092017006034

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