In parched North Karnataka, heat’s rising

Govt’s dilly-dallying jeopardizes lives of farmers in N-K. Water resources minister DKS promises to step in.

Hubballi: Farmers from the Krishna basin took water resources minister D.K. Shivakumar to task during his visit to Shiraguppi village in parched Athani taluk of Belagavi district on Saturday for the government's lack of initiative in pushing for the release of water from Maharashtra during the summer months.

The minister, who visited the district to check water availability in the reservoirs, had to face the wrath of the farmers at Shiraguppi. They stopped his car and forced him to come out of the vehicle. They contended that the minister failed to visit their villages when the Krishna River dried up this summer. They alleged that the minister visited the district after Maharashtra released water on its own owing to good rainfall in that state in the past few days.

The agitated farmers also alleged that the government was only receptive to the problems of the Cauvery basin farmers and not theirs.

Athani MLA Mahesh Komatalli intervened and persuaded the farmers to withdraw their protest.

Mr. Shivakumar had earlier said: “Chief Minister of Maharashtra has assured us water from Koyna dam. But, he has requested a meeting of both CMs to sign a MoU due to his own compulsion. He has also urged ministers from both States to join together to find a solution. Therefore, I am visiting dams of Chikkodi taluk along with my team of officials to conduct personal inspection", minister said.

With the monsoon getting delayed, farmers in North Karnataka are in the grip of a severe drought with their woes worsening because of the non-release of water from Koyna dam in neighbouring Maharashtra.

Karnataka and Maharashtra have not been able to strike a pact for release of Krishna river water to Belagavi and Bagalkot districts in return for Koyna dam water. The situation has worsened because rival parties are in power in both states adding a political dimension to the row. Farmer leaders now want a co-ordination committee involving irrigation experts to be constituted so that an MoU can be finalised on the water-for-water agreement.

In fact, the Karnataka government had written several letters to Maharashtra to release Koyna water during summer but, Maharashtra putforth a condition that the backwaters of Almatti should be released to its Solhapur and Jatti region. Karnataka has not taken steps for a permanent agreement with Maharashtra and its dilly-dallying has caused resentment among farmers. Mr Shivakumar held several meetings with officials and elected representatives in Belagavi last month. Farmer leaders contend that CM failed to pressure Maharashtra to arrive at a water-for-water agreement despite releasing 2 tmcft of Almatti water to T’gana without consulting them. “The proposal for an agreement has been pending for more than ten years. But, it has not come into effect due to the utter negligence of the state government and elected representatives in the region,” said farmer leader Basavaraj Kumba.

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