Villagers of Jamkhandi taluk in Karnataka contribute labour and funds for their own water project.
Hubballi: In its budget today, the Karnataka government put out impressive figures for the water projects it intends to build. But the people of 30 villages in Athani and Jamkhandi taluks are just not impressed.
Budgets and governments have come and gone, but no water ever flowed into their barrage. So instead of waiting for the government to do something or the neighboring state of Maharashtra to release water to them during the summer, these farmers have taken up voluntary work to fill the Chikka Padasalagi (Shrama Bindu Sagar) barrage.
They plan to lift 1.5 tmc ft of water from the backwaters of the Almatti dam to cater to their drinking water needs in the summer.
Sounds like a tall order, but they have a history of DIY (do-it-yourself) dam building in these parts.
Back in 1990, these farmers built a barrage on their own after a desperate wait of more than a decade for the government to build one for them. They contributed their own funds and labour to realize their dream.
That voluntary initiative brought prosperity to them, ridding them of chronic poverty. The half-km barrage they built on the river Krishna turned the entire region into a sugarcane belt.
Back then, it cost them just Rs 89 lakh. The money was raised through contributions from farmers, ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 100. People of each village took turns to do the construction work on a rotation basis.
A few years later, the height of the barrage was raised from 8 m to 9.75 m, again through shramdan, with each farmer contributing Rs 15,000. That DIY effort increased the storage capacity of the reservoir from 2.8 tmc ft to 4.3 tmc ft.
Now the people have come together again, this time to fill the barrage with water. They plan to use 25 pumpsets of 100 hp capacity to pump water from the backwaters of the Almatti project. They have even contributed money to pay for the electricity needed to lift the water from Almatti.
This people's movement is supported by former Jamkhandi MLA Siddu Nyamagoudar, who united them under the umbrella of Krishna River Bank Farmers.
First up, they have taken up repair work of the barrage gates that were damaged in the devastating flood last year. They are removing weeds, thorny plants and silt.
"Every summer, we are forced to beg Maharashtra to release water from the Koyna dam to supply drinking water in our region. But they have never done so despite the Karnataka government offering to pay crores of rupees for it. Therefore, we are trying find a solution on our own," said Rajugouda Patil, president of the Krishna Basin Farmers’ Association.
As per this plan, more than 100 people from each village will contribute shramadan every day on a rotation basis.
"We are planning to store 1.5 tmc ft of water for the next 30 days," said Rajugouda Patil.