India

Govt braces for drought, bans borewells till May end

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Since a scorching summer and drought are imminent in Kerala, the government has asked all district collectors not to permit the construction of borewells in the state till May 31. The government asked the collectors to invoke the relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act to enforce the decision.

Sources said even though the permission of groundwater department and the concerned local body is mandatory to construct borewells, permission is not availed in many cases. Collectors have been told to strictly enforce rules in this case.

This decision assumes significance since rainfall in the state was dismal. The severity of the situation had forced the government to introduce a slew of measures such as rainwater harvesting, rejuvenating ponds and water bodies, protecting wetlands, monitoring water wastage and illegal connections.

The government also asked collectors to identify the quarry-ponds in each district and ensure that the water was not exploited by anyone, especially vested interest groups. It also needs to be ascertained if the water in quarry-ponds was usable for drinking purposes.

In January itself, district collectors were asked to implement drought mitigation measures to ensure water supply in summer. The state government had said that it would set up water kiosks at 10,000 spots to ensure drinking water by February.

Officials had said that the southwest monsoon deficiency was 34% and the effects of low rainfall was seen in the reservoir levels and groundwater table. Before this year, drought was officially declared in 2012, 2010 and 2003.

In 2010, 17 taluks were declared as drought-affected while in 2003 it was seven districts, seven taluks and 119 villages. Although southwest monsoon in 2015 was deficient by 25.7%, the Northeast monsoon had compensated the deficit. From 1881-2000, Kerala experienced 66 drought years. The major rainfall deficit years were 1983, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2012.

Also, district collectors can use their discretionary powers to transport drinking water in tanker trucks to areas where setting up a water kiosk was impractical. For this, tanker trucks, connected with global positioning system (GPS), should be used.

At a video conference that was convened by chief secretary S M Vijayanand with all district collectors last Wednesday, most of them had cited the imminent water scarcity and the way in which groundwater resources were being utilized without criteria.

Meanwhile, the CPM state secretariat on Saturday asked all party forums and feeder organizations to actively involve in drought alleviation programmes as the state rainfall fell by 60%, compared to last year. In a statement, the party secretariat said: "The government has taken steps to ensure availability of drinking water to everyone. But, the situation is getting worse after each day and the government's efforts alone will not be sufficient to mitigate summer woes."