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Anantapur Drinking Water Supply Project

The district of Anantapur is one of the most arid and backward districts in Andhra Pradesh. The three major rivers Pennar, Hagari and Chitravathi that flow in the district are non-perennial and remain dry during the summer months. Tanks and rivers run dry for most of the year and groundwater too is scarce. Even the groundwater that is available is brackish and high in fluoride content. The excessive fluoride in the water was causing fluorosis leading to widespread skeletal and dental deformations. Thus, the people of Anantapur have for long been suffering due to lack of water even for drinking. The villagers had to trudge long distances in the harsh unforgiving heat to fetch water for their daily consumption.

The parched earth held no hope for this farmer Bone deformations caused by excessive fluorine in the groundwater

In November 1995, Bhagawan announced His concern about the suffering of the people of Rayalseema due to lack of drinking water. He said, “Rayalaseema should be ensured water supply all through the year. Today it is a Raallaseema (a rocky region). It must be transformed into a Ratnalaseema (land that glitters as a diamond).”

In March 1995, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust commenced work on a project to supply pure drinking water to villages in the drought-ravaged district of Anantapur. Bhagawan’s mandate was simple and direct: Provide safe drinking water throughout the year to as many people as possible, in as many villages in the shortest possible time. Accordingly, a project plan was drawn up to bring water to the villages involving four kinds of schemes. The main strategy was to tap river water where available from dams, canals and river beds and then deliver the water through an elaborate network of storage reservoirs, booster pumps and pipes. The four schemes involved were:

  • Direct Pumping Water is drawn from an already existing irrigation dam and is then distributed to the villages through a network of pipelines. For the project, water from the Penna Ahobilam Balancing Reservoir is sent for treatment to a rapid sand filtration system and then pumped to about 93 villages in the Kalyandurg, Atmakur and Udiripikonda sectors.
The Penna Ahobilam Balancing Reservoir
  • Infiltration Well Schemes In some areas, infiltration wells are sunk into riverbeds to tap water from underground streams. The subsoil water is then drawn throughout the year from these wells and fed to a collection well from where it is distributed to many places through a system of pumps. The water obtained is pure and requires very minimal treatment. Wells were sunk on the banks of the Chitravathi, Hagari and Pennar rivers for this purpose.
    An infiltration well sunk on the bank of a river
  • Summer Storage Tank Schemes
    This method is used in places where the surface water dries up during acute summer conditions. Water is tapped from the Tunghabhadra Canal during the rainy season and is fed to a set of summer storage tanks, from which water is pumped during the dry season. The summer storage tanks are about 100 acres in extent. This scheme covers 97 villages.

    An offtake well drawing water from massive Summer Storage Tank

  • Borewell Schemes
    This simple scheme covered 279 villages and involved drilling deep borewells and installing submersible pumps to draw out the water. This procedure was used wherever the groundwater was found to be sufficient and free from excessive fluoride content.

    The first phase of the project was inaugurated on 18th November 1995 by the then Prime Minister of India, Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao in a function held at the Poornachandra Auditorium in Prasanthi Nilayam. Altogether, 731 villages were covered in the project at a cost of Rs.3000 million and was completed in a record time of eighteen months thanks not only to a dedicated team of workers from various establishments but also thousands of inspired villagers who contributed their mite to make this Divine project successful. A total of 1.25 million people were benefited by the project.
  • The nightmare had at last ended for the people of Anantapur. The villagers will never again have to trek long miles for pure and safe drinking water, for it is now available almost at their doorstep. The frightening scepter of fluorosis too is behind them. For, Bhagawan, moved to compassion by their plight had resolved to wipe away their tears once and for all.

    Life just got easier - People collecting water from a cistern constructed in the village

    Project Statistics:

  • About 2000 kilometres of pipeline of varying diameters were laid
  • 43 sumps with capacities ranging from 1 lakh (0.1 million) litres to 25 lakh litres were constructed
  • 18 balancing reservoirs with capacities ranging from 3 lakh litres to 10 lakh litres have been constructed on the top of hillocks
  • Construction of 270 overhead reservoirs. Capacity: 40,000 – 300000 litres
  • 125 ground level reservoirs were set up. Capacity: 20,000 litres – 80,000 litres.
  • More than 1500 precast concrete cisterns of 2500 litres capacity have been installed in various villages. Each cistern has four taps for people to collect water.

The project was formally handed over to the Government of Andhra Pradesh in October 1997. This project has received much acclaim from the Government of India:

  • The Ninth Five Year plan document of Government of India added a citation to the Trust in appreciation of the project, which read -
    “… Sri Sathya Sai Trust has set an unparalleled example of private initiative in implementing a project on their own, without any state's budgetary support, a massive water supply project, with an expenditure of Rs. 3,000 million to benefit 731 scarcity and fluoride / salinity-affected villages and a few towns in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in a time frame of about 18 months.”
  • On 23rd November 1999, the Department of Posts, Government of India, released a postage stamp and a postal cover in recognition of the pioneering service rendered by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in addressing the problem of providing safe drinking water to the rural masses.
Postage stamp released by the Government of India on 23rd November, 1999

Medak & Mahabubnagar Drinking Water Supply Project

Following the Anantapur Drinking Water Supply Project, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust replicated the model to provide water to 320 villages in Medak and Mahabubnagar districts of Andhra Pradesh. Just as in Anantapur, the groundwater in these regions contains excessive concentration of fluorine. Pollution from industrial effluents had further aggravated the problem. The Trust stepped in to provide safe and pure drinking water to the people of these districts in the year 2001.

An intake well drawing water from the running water stream A clarifloculator used for water treatment

The project draws water mainly from the backwaters of the Jurala Project built on the Krishna River in Mahabubnagar district and from Manjeera River in Medak district. The project that cost Rs.530 million covered a total area of 640 benefiting an aggregate population of about 1 million in the two districts.

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