Telangana Drought 2016

The severe drought in Telangana has caused acute shortage of drinking water and worsened the agriculture crisis in the state.

On Nov 24, 2015, the Telangana government declared drought in 7 out of 10 districts. It declared 231 out of 443 rural mandals (blocks) in the State as drought-affected and sought an immediate assistance of Rs. 1000 crore from the Centre. All the mandals in Mahabubnagar (64), Medak (46) and Nizamabad (36) districts were declared drought-hit.  Other mandals declared drought-hit included 33 out of 37 in Ranga Reddy, 19 of 57 in Karimnagar, 22 of 59 in Nalgonda, and 11 of 51 in Warangal. None of the mandals in Adilabad (52) and Khammam (41) districts were on the list.

In Jun – Sept 2015 monsoon, 216 of 459 mandals in Telangana recorded scanty rainfall. According to IMD, rain in June 1 – Sept 30 period was 20% deficit in Telangana. Around end of June 2015, Telangana received good rain, but then it dried up.


Assessing the agricultural drought situation of Telangana up to Oct 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre assessed Mahbubnagar and Nizamabad districts as facing ‘moderate drought’. The ‘moderate drought’ category is the most severe drought category under the assessment. Medak and Rangareddy districts were assessed as facing mild drought while the situation in the rest of the districts was assessed as normal.

The delayed declaration of drought came for criticism – the agricultural department knew that a drought like situation was prevailing in Mahabubnagar, Medak, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Rangareddy districts and a few parts of Nalgonda, Warangal and Adilabad districts since early September. It also knew that over 50 per cent of the rain-fed crops were affected badly. In all likelihood, the farmers would lose even the investment made on cultivation. Yet, it waited to prepare a detailed report despite being well aware of farm suicides that drought-induced crop failures and other hardships trigger. Deficit rainfall along with severe dry spells caused withering and drying up of crops leading to reduced yield.

The list of mandals declared drought-hit has led to allegations of discrimination on political grounds. The government overlooked reports submitted by the collectors and included some mandals with normal rainfall while missing out several that were drought-hit. The opposition has accused the government of favouring mandals in assembly constituencies held by the ruling party.

The state faced a drought in 2014-15 also, just when it was formed, and the government did not declare drought that year. As a result, farmers did not receive any assistance with input subsidy or loan rescheduling from the Centre.

Plummeting Ground water

Officials from the Telangana Ground Water department describe the drought as unusual. The groundwater levels in the state have plummeted by 2.78 metres during 2015. Borewells are drying up at most places. Even the borewells in tank command areas and project command areas have gone dry. Because of drought in back to back years and reservoirs going dry, people are desperately relying on groundwater. But groundwater reserves take thousands of years to accumulate. Despite restrictions on sinking new borewells, rig operators are continuing illegally.


People wait for electricity to pump water from a public well in Medak 

District Depth to water level in mbgl in Jan 2016 Decrease compared to Jan 2015, in m.
Nizamabad 18.35 -6.22
Medak 23.82 -7.37
Warangal 10.15 +0.17
Karimnagar 12.00 -2.05
Adilabad 9.46 -1.33
Ranga Reddy 17.03 -3.73
Hyderabad 9.79 +0.12
Mahbubnagar 15.27 -3.92
Nalgonda 13.12 -2.94
Khammam 8.55 -0.53
State 13.75 -2.78

Source: http://agrisnet.tg.nic.in/weeklyreport.jsp?mode=rep



District wise rainfall data (Jun 1, 2015 to Feb 17, 2016)

District SW Monsoon Deviation NE Monsoon Deviation Cumulative (1-6-2015 to 17-2-2016) deviation Status
Nizamabad -45% -80% -50% Deficit
Medak -35% -83% -43% Deficit
Warangal 13% -83% -1% Normal
Karimnagar -18% -91% -28% Deficit
Adilabad -18% -91% -27% Deficit
Ranga Reddy -27% -79% -37% Deficit
Hyderabad -11% -50% -20% Normal
Mahbubnagar -25% -62% -33% Deficit
Nalgonda -1% -77% -17% Normal
Khammam 12% -81% -2% Normal
State -15% -76% -25% Deficit

Source: Agriculture Department, Telangana

Normally, in Telangana, 14% of the annual rainfall comes from North East Monsoon.

RESERVOIR STATUS (as of Apr 13, 2016; The average of last 10 years is taken as ‘normal’)

Reservoirs having less than 50% of normal storage:

Srisailam: 39%

Lower Manair: 40%

Nagarjuna Sagar: 0%

Storage as % of live capacity at full reservoir level (FRL):

Reservoir Present Last year Normal
Sriramsagar 6 16 12
Lower Manair 13 22 31
Srisailam 8 30 19
Nagarjuna Sagar 0 4 23

Source: CWC

  • The Nagarjunasagar reservoir is dry.
  • Due to the rainfall deficit during Southwest monsoons, the inflow from upstream into the Krishna basin dams was severely reduced.

River Basins (as of Apr 13, 2016; Source: CWC)

Water levels (in BCM) in river basins:

Godavari: 15.394 (FRL); 5.068 (Apr 2015); 3.078(Apr 2016); 32.35% below normal

Krishna: 32.831 (FRL); 6.914 (Apr 2015); 2.639(Apr 2016); 63.95% below normal


  • For the year 2015-16, the average number of days of work provided per household was 50.34 (Based on data from http://nrega.nic.in/) and 53.93 as per http://www.nrega.telangana.gov.in/
  • Only 12.13% of the households that got employment under NREGA in 2015-16 were employed for 100 days or more. (Note: This is not saying about households that were not employed at all.) Based on data from http://nrega.nic.in/
  • In 2015-16, the average wage received per person per day was Rs. 131.03. NREGA wage rate was Rs 180 per day in 2015. Now, it is Rs 194 per day.
  • Amount over Rs. 211 crore is unpaid from NREGA wages for 2015-16. In 2015-16, no more than 45% of wages were paid on time. Based on data from http://nrega.nic.in/
  • In the financial year 2015-16, the expenditure in wages was 74.55% of the total expenditure of Telangana on NREGA. http://www.nrega.telangana.gov.in/
  • Feb 27, 2016: Telangana is among the top recipients of Central funds for MGNREGA. The government claims it has already provided the maximum of 100 wage days for three lakh people this year and was giving work for 150 days in 231 drought mandals with the permission of the Centre. Medak, Nizamabad, Adilabad and Nalgonda topped in works. Women constituted 57 per cent of the work force.

Government Action



K Chandrasheker Rao with familiy at puja
 CM K Chandrasheker Rao with familiy participates in Ayutha Chandi Maha Yagam at Medak 



  • Dec 28, 2015 CM KCR held a 5 day ‘yagam’ costing Rs 7 crore to provide relief to drought hit Telangana.
  • Feb 16, 2016: Drinking water being supplied through tankers to some places in Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts.
  • Feb 16, 2016: State government has recently released Rs. 55 crore from State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to Collectors of Mahabubnagar, Medak, Nizamabad, Ranga Reddy, Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Warangal districts to mitigate drinking water problem in drought hit mandals
  • Mar 30, 2016: The state government has said that it will disburse input subsidy amount to farmers before the commencement of Kharif season in June. The state will also give input subsidy to small and marginal horticultural farmers.
  • Apr 14, 2016: Data from the Centre’s rural development ministry shows that Telangana has not utilised the funds provided under the national rural drinking water programme. Telangana has around Rs 20 crore of unspent funds despite being hit by an acute water shortage.  It has not utilised even the flexi-fund – provided to use for emergency measures for immediate relief.
  • While the entire Karimnagar district is under the spell of drought, only 19 of the 57 mandals were declared drought-affected.
  • State government is only blaming previous AP government for failed irrigation projects and is carrying out works on them which can at best provide relief in the long run. Govt. claims that over 2-lakh acres could be irrigated in Khammam district this year purely with the help of minor irrigation tanks restored under Mission Kakatiya – its pet project.


  • Mar 29, 2016: Godavari river has become totally dry for the first time in half a century. Due to lack of rainfall in its catchment areas. Farmers in the area used to raise three crops a year till recently utilising the river water. Paddy, maize and chilli are the main crops. They never experienced irrigation problem. Hundreds of villages in Nizamabad and Adilabad are dependent on the perennial river for their drinking water needs.
  • Apr 7, 2016: 178 people as per official figures and possibly even more have died from the heat wave in Telangana. The highest number of sunstroke deaths, were reported from Nalgonda (53 deaths) and Mahbubnagar (33) district. Many are vulnerable without access to water. Officials said a majority of the sunstroke victims are agricultural labourers and daily wage workers who have no other option than to toil under the scorching sun. Kin of the dead are eligible to receive Rs 50,000. Officials contest the cause for the death with specificities of the definitions and the unofficial death toll is much higher. On Apr 18, 2016, the State government officials backtracked the figure from 66 and said that the number of heatwave deaths was 19.
  • Apr 18, 2016: Greater Hyderabad area, which gets the highest priority in the state for water supply, is facing a water crisis. Hyderabad’s four captive reservoirs – Singur, Manjira, Himayatsagar and Osmansagar – which used to meet 40-50% of the city’s drinking water needs, have all reached dead storage levels, and supplies stopped more than a month ago. Its two main river-based water systems are functioning at reduced levels. If rains are delayed past mid-July, it would be a disaster for Hyderabad. Borewells going deeper than 500 ft have also gone dry in Greater Hyderabad area. Residents have to get permission to sink a borewell and it costs around Rs. 40,000 to drill a borewell with depth over 300 ft. Chances of getting water are also bleak yet people are sinking borewells every night illegally. Hyderabad Revenue department admitted that they are not able to deny permission for new borewells due to pressure from applicants. Many are turning to packaged water in the wake of acute shortage of drinking water. There are around 7,000 mineral water plants in the state out of which only 113 are BIS certified. The uncertified ones are selling their product at a cheaper price. Migrant workers in the cities are worst-hit as they have no access to the water supplied by the water utilities. A good part of their earnings go into buying water. Because of the drought, the prices of 20-litre water cans have inched up to Rs 50-70 per can in Hyderabad.
  • Mar 30, 2016: Drinking water shortage is also being felt in the twin towns of Warangal and Hanmakonda in Warangal district which are now receiving tap water once in three days. The towns receive water from the Bhadrakali Cheruvu which gets water from the Lower Manair Dam in Karimnagar, now at dead storage levels. By the end of April, all water tanks supplying water to Nizamabad city dried up except for Ali Sagar reservoir.
  • May 15, 2016: Due to severe drought fewer migratory birds are reported to have arrived in the State as the second year of consecutive drought has left many wetlands in Hydrabad drying up or with unusually hot water. Four reservoirs catering to drinking water requirements of Hyderabad include Osmansagar, which used to attract a good number of Pelicans and other migratory birds every year have also dried up. Gandipet, as Osmansagar is popularly known and Shameerpet Lake were among the stopover points in Hyderabad for migratory birds on their way from Ladakh to Sri Lanka.


Dried up Godavari exposing flood basalt river bed as seen from the back of Changdev temple in Puntamba

Agriculture: (Data obtained from the agriculture department website.)


  •  Total cultivated area during Kharif 2015-16 season is 35.78 lakh ha which is 86% of the normal 41.43 lakh ha. Medak showed the highest deviation of 29% lesser area under cultivation. While paddy was planted in only 58% of the normal area, cotton was cultivated at normal levels. However, the crop coverage report of the state agriculture department does not report the yield of the cotton and other crops cultivated.
  • Total cultivated area during Rabi season is 6.75 lakh ha which is 54% of the normal 12.53 lakh ha. Cultivated area in every district except for Adilabad is under 60% of the area normally under cultivation.
  • Half the area is normally cultivated with paddy. Area under paddy cultivation during Rabi 2015-16 is only 35% of the normal. By April 2016, around 1000 of the 2500 rice mills in Telangana had shut down because of shortage of paddy production and increasing costs to maintain the mills. Usually, the mills directly or indirectly employ at least 75,000 people. These mills are the primary suppliers to the government for the public distribution systems (PDS).
  • Apr 29, 2016: There is a drastic fall in food grain production this year because of the drought conditions and lack of irrigation water. The grain production is estimated to be around 48.63 lakh tonnes. In 2014-15, 72.2 lakh tonnes of food grains were produced which was also less than normal. Price of rice in the open market is likely to increase because of the production shortfall.
  • Apr 8, 2016: Khammam and Nalgonda districts have come under the grip of heat wave. Apart from rice, spices such as chillies and turmeric, and cotton are the principal commodities grown here. Chilli prices are already racing to a new high at Rs 125 per kg with 20-30% fall in production.
  • Cotton is cultivated in about 2.4 million hectares in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana put together. This accounts for 17 per cent of the cultivated area in both the states.  Telangana has become the third largest cotton producer, with 1.6 million hectares under cultivation. The cost of cultivation is high and MSP announced by the Centre are lower than the costs incurred. This year, the cost estimation of paddy per quintal is Rs 2,100 in Telangana. The MSP announced is Rs 1,400 a quintal. Cotton is grown in Mahabubnagar and Nizamabad districts in Telangana where rainfall deficit was as high as 60% in the monsoons.  Half the crop has failed.
  • At many places, cultivated paddy fields, which should have been harvested now, have turned into grazing ground for cattle.
  • Apr 6, 2016: Drought conditions across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and rising scarcity of fodder have begun to affect milk production. Back-to-back droughts have led to at least 10% fall in milk procurement over the past few weeks. The leading player in the market, Vijaya Dairy, saw its procurement falling by a third to 4 lakh litres a day now from a peak of 6 lakh litres in December.
  • Apr 13, 2016: In Mahbubnagar district, a fish farmer lost all the prawns and fish in his tank due to non release of water from the canal supplying the tank. Appealing to the State government to come to his rescue with financial aid, as fish farming is not covered under drought-hit commodities.
  • Lack of access to institutional credit and low crop insurance. Large number of farmers did not repay loans last year, and banks have refused loans this year. Many did not repay in anticipation of the debt waiver that was promised by the ruling TRS party at the time of elections. But the waiver was restricted to loans up to a maximum of Rs 1 lakh per farmer that too for bank loans only while many had taken private loans. Consecutive crop failures have forced poor farmers to borrow money at high interest rates for buying inputs and also for subsistence with many mortgaging their lands. Unable to repay loans, many distressed farmers have been are driven to suicide.
  • Poor rainfall, depleting land fertility, dependence on chemicals and fertilisers, expensive inputs, low MSP have pushed farmers into distress. Crop failure because of drought has been the final straw for many. As per Agriculture Ministry reports, 342 farmers committed suicide in 2015 in Telangana. The true number would only be larger. Some farmers took their lives in Hyderabad or in big cities such as Warangal at important places in the city to draw the attention of the government and people to their plight. Under pressure from the media and citizens the government hiked the ex gratia paid to farmers’ families to Rs 6 lakh.
  • Apr 25 2016: According to farmers’ organisations, nearly 14 lakh people have migrated from the worst affected districts of Mahabubnagar, Ranga Reddy, Medak and Nizamabad. People are migrating to Hyderabad and other cities in Telangana and to Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Surat looking for work. While migration is an annual phenomenon, the numbers this year have gone up due to the severity of the drought.
  • Rural drinking water crisis: In Khammam, hundreds of borewells have dried up and the water level in the Wyra reservoir is down to 7 ft against the maximum mark of 18.3 ft. Water scarcity is felt the most in the tribal areas of Bhadrachalam as the administration only reaches into some of the villages. Women are forced to travel long distances to fetch potable water. In Nalgonda and Nizamabad districts, the administration has leased hundreds of private borewells to supply water to habitations while water tankers partially meet the water demand in some of the worst hit hamlets. While digging of borewells is banned in Nizamabad district, the Rural Water Supply department itself is digging new borewells down to 500 feet. About 90 water bodies in Nalgonda district used to be filled with water for drinking purpose from the Nagarjunsagar project which has now gone below dead storage level. Drinking water problem is getting worse in Karimnagar district as water level in the 2 reservoirs in the district – Lower Manair Dam and the Yellampalli irrigation project – are approaching dead storage levels. Despite the scarcity of water in the district, water from Yellampalli project is being pumped to Hyderbad.
  • Borewells for irrigation: Digging borewells to pump out ground water is mostly the only option for farmers in Telangana. Despite bans and restrictions, many farmers are engaging rig operators, spending a huge amount of money to deepen their existing borewells and or dig new ones. The money spent on digging borewells increases indebtedness and suicide. In Ranga Reddy district, most of them fail as the ground water level has dropped very low. In Oct 2015, it was reported that the govt. was unable to meet the unusual demand for drip and sprinkler irrigation units in Nizamabad district, which increased because of the drought and depleting ground water.
  • Apr 20, 2016: 65,000 to 68,000 cattle in Goshalas are in poor condition due to severe scarcity of water and non-availability of fodder. The state government is not able to supply water and has failed to supply fodder to the goshalas at the subsidized rates notified by the government. Government agencies admitted that there was a 50% shortage of fodder almost everywhere. The animal husbandry department has announced water troughs for cattle but the number of troughs available is not even a tenth of the required number. Lack of water in the rivers has hit the livestock badly. They do not have sufficient green grass on the river banks. Farmers are struggling to provide fodder and water to the cattle and are forced to sell them to slaughter houses. This has increased since the start of April in Adilabad district. Distress sales of cattle have been reported in Medak district where 50 cattle deaths were reported until the end of March and also in Karimnagar district. In Nalgonda district, only half the fodder requirement in being met. In Nizamabad, officials have distributed fodder seeds to farmers. Only, there is no water to sow them. In Mahbubnagar district, the number of heads of cattle has decreased by 2%. Wild animals like peacock and deer are dying of thirst in the forests and leopards are straying into neighboring villages in search of food and water.

Anuradha UV, SANDRP (uv.anuradha@gmail.com)

You may also like to see

Odisha Drought 2016

Andhra Pradesh Drought 2016

Karnataka: Profile of 2015-16 Drought 

Drought and Marathwada: An Oft repeated Traged

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