Was a ‘Maha factor’ responsible for the catastrophic situation in Mumbai-Karnataka comprising seven districts? The agony of people living in the Krishna river basin in Karnataka and Maharashtra did not begin overnight and started in January itself when farmers started facing an acute shortage of drinking water.
Elected representatives of Belagavi, Bagalkote and Vijayapura approached the Maharashtra government earlier this year seeking release of water from Koyna or Varna dams for the parched villages of Chikkodi, Athani, Raibag, Bagalkote and Jamkhandi.
Maharashtra has been releasing at least 2 tmc of water from its dams to Karnataka since 2004 for which the Karnataka government has paid Rs 1-2 crore for one tmc water.
The ‘water business’ continued till 2017 when Maharashtra started singing a different tune demanding a ‘Water for Water’ MoU with Karnataka instead of accepting payments. Though many political leaders including then CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, and Irrigation Minister D.K. Shivakumar wrote letters to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis seeking a discussion on this unique MoU, it did not happen.
Then came the deluge in the Krishna basin of Maharashtra with the Rajapur barrage, built on the border, overflowing and the Maharashtra irrigation department opening its gates to release water. The situation worsened in early July when Koyna and other dams in Maharashtra started overflowing.
The flow of water from Maharashtra dams gradually increased to more than 4 to 4.5 lakhs cusecs per day and this resulted in the disastrous floods in Karnataka. The catastrophic situation could have been avoided to some extent if the Maharashtra government had heeded the request of the Karnataka govt for a discussion on the Water for Water MoU and water had been released from Maharashtra’s dams in early April or May. But the Maharashtra govt then stuck to its guns by not releasing water. I feel Maharashtra may now have realized its blunder .
— The author is a President, Belagavi District Kannada Organisations Action Committee...