| A bird looks for insects on the dried-up Himayat Sagar lake in Hyderabad. (AFP)
Hyderabad, June 5: The heatwave, which has claimed over 1,200 lives, has also caused the Chandrababu Naidu government considerable embarrassment over the failure of its Neeru-Meeru and Green and Clean programmes.
The chief minister, who has set up a task force to study why there have been so many heatwave deaths and why the water-table is depleting, is concerned about the fate of the heavily-funded assistance programmes.
“We have spent around Rs 1,700 crore under Neeru–Meeru to augment the groundwater table and conserve water in the state during the last four years. All this has come to naught,” a despairing Naidu said at today’s Cabinet meeting on the drought.
The Naidu administration has sought to pass the buck to the Opposition and the Karnataka government for its failure to procure drinking water from across the border.
Next week’s Telugu Desam Party-sponsored agitation against the Paragodu project in Karnataka’s Kolar district is likely to raise the political temperature.
The Desam is worried that its claims of improving the water table, completing water-conservation work and making towns greener have been proved hollow. “All the money has gone down the drain and now we are busy with contingency plans and defending ourselves against criticism,” a senior secretary at the agriculture department said.
Statistics show that heat-related deaths have increased as the government implemented its assistance programmes. Last year, there were 800 heatwave deaths; the previous year, the toll was 630.
“Environmental decadence is stronger than environmental rejuvenation in the state,” environmentalist Purushottam Reddy said. He demanded that the government spell out what development projects it has undertaken and the amount it has spent on them. “The cat will come out of the bag if the reports are made public,” Reddy said.
The heatwave is expected to continue a few more days with the southwest monsoon still to arrive.