The river has nine main tributaries and its catchment area, measuring approximately 3,09,248 hectares, covers nine mandals in Chittor district, including reserve forest in the region. Though it is not a perennial river, Swarnamukhi plays an important role in water table control, facilitating rain water percolation in its influence zone. Apart from meeting the irrigation needs, it also helps in augmenting drinking water for nearly 400 habitations. The drinking water needs of the temple towns of Tirupati, Tirumala and Srikalahasthi are met from the river Swarnamukhi.
Construction of dam on upstream side caused irrigation and drinking water problems. The region’s water table fell drastically as a result of the degradation of the catchment area, unsustainable exploitation of groundwater, erratic rainfall and sand quarrying in the nearby towns. In order to rejuvenate the Swarnamukhi river, NGOs of Chittor district formed a consortium under the leadership of the Rashtriya Seva Samithi (RASS) to take up the Swarnamukhi River Rejuvenation Project. The project received support from The CAPART, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India and Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD).
Construction of sub-surface dams and restoration and renovation of the existing water harvesting structures are the main activities in addressing 40,000 hectares of forest land and 59,500 hectares of non-forest area that needed treatment under the current drive. 10 sub-surface dams have been constructed at various locations along the course of the river after conducting hydro-geological investigations. This dam was constructed with 98% of clay and 250% of micro film was used which is most cost effective. To sustain the motivation levels, special programmes have been planned for the farming communities, especially the user groups and self-help groups.
In order to improve the socio-economic conditions of the communities in the Swarnamukhi catchment area, the consortium focussed on - capacity building, income generation, non-formal education, re-productive child health, environmental protection, rural technologies, women empowerment and eradication of child labour.
The implementation of the Swarnamukhi River Rejuvenation Project is expected to bring about the augmentation of drinking and irrigation water in 400 habitations in nine mandals of Chittor district; augmentation of drinking water supplied to important pilgrim towns like Tirupati, Tirumala and Sri Kalahasti, increase in bio-mass in 49,411 hectares of un-cultivable area; assured irrigation of 70,799 hectares of cultivable area and stabilization of agriculture; increase in per capita income and employment generation. This innovative project got afforestation not only in the country but at International level also.
The arid and drought prone Rayalaseema region has been included under the DPAP for improving water availability for domestic and irrigation purposes. RASS had undertaken watershed projects in order to conserve and make efficient use of the ground water sources with a focus on rainwater harvesting.
The activities of the watershed development are implemented through the watershed committees in six mandals of the Chittor district viz., Thottambedu, B.N. Kandriga, Sri Kalahasti, Yerpedu, Renigunta and Pakala. These were the thrust areas in which RASS had implemented the watershed activities with the funds of DPAP. Watershed committees were formed as per the guidelines and the activities were carried out solely through people’s participation.
In addition to the physical structures, the beneficiaries were enlightened on alternate cropping system and mango grafts were supplied to the beneficiaries. Waste lands were put to use through promotion of amla, eucalyptus plantations and fodder cultivation.
As an off shoot of the persistent drought in the district, a massive food for work programme was undertaken in the watershed areas with the main emphasis on soil and moisture conservation, renovation of feeder channels and desilting of tanks. Government has sanctioned additional resources in the form of 150 tones of food grains for RASS to take up soil and moisture conservation works and, thereby, halt the migration of rural communities in watershed areas.
NABARD entrusted 03 watersheds in Chinnagottigallu mandal in 2009, where farmers’ suicides have been registered. RASS as Project Facilitating Agency (PFA) mobilized communities to take up watershed activities. Around 3400 hectares of land has been demarcated under the three watersheds. Presently, these three watersheds are in capacity building phase.
With the assistance of various funding organisations, RASS has developed 2500 acres of waste land into cultivable land. The waste land has been cleared of the bushes, leveled and bunded. In addition, surface bore wells have been dug to a depth of 100-200 meters. All the wells have been energized. Out of the 2500 acres, 1500 acres have been brought under irrigation. Some of the SC and ST colonies have been completely transformed into self-sufficient communities as a result of land development activities. The District Rural Development Agency supported the project.
The minor irrigation is one of the major irrigation sources in the arid and semi arid regions of Andhra Pradesh. The hilly areas and non river basin regions mainly depend on the minor irrigation tanks. These tanks were constructed long ago. During the course of time and due to neglect of water management, many minor irrigation sources are not providing enough water.
The Government of Andhra Pradesh promulgated an act ‘Farmer’s organization for Irrigation Systems’ to address the problem of minor irrigation tanks. The government negotiated with World Bank to revive the minor irrigation tanks and revitalize people’s participation through People’s Institutions. Consequently, the ‘Andhra Pradesh Community Based Tank Management Project’ is designed and implemented through Andhra Pradesh Irrigation and Command Area Development wing under minor Irrigation of Govt. of Andhra Pradesh.
Rashtriya Seva Samithi (RASS) was entrusted with responsibility of undertaking three such projects - 2 units in Chittor and 1 in Nellore District (a total of 21 tanks in two districts).