Water crisis has become a very commonly used phrase in the country especially with the ongoing tussle between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for Kaveri river and between Goa and Karnataka for Mahadayi river. Karnataka is found in the middle of various concerns surrounding water availability.
Rona taluk which falls in Gadag district in Northern Karnataka has been witness to many water related issues. It is never in one flow, the people of this taluk have not just seen extreme droughts but floods that have caused vast devastations.
Ehsaan Khureshi, a resident of a small village called Kurivinakoppa of Rona has lived all his life in the village. He is a farmer and like many other farmers he has also suffered many losses because of either lack of water or excess of it. He says, “Our land has been dry for many months now. There was not enough water for the past three years and therefore we use bore wells to irrigate our fields, initially we were completely dependent on rainwater.”
The Malaprabha river which flows from Kankumbi and reaches this taluk was a major source of water for the people living on its banks but for many years these farmers could not be given a proper permanent solution for drinking as well as irrigation water.
A dam built on this river in Saudatti taluk was made to do the same but the Malaprabaha river project has not been successful because rainfall in the area cannot be contained by the dam. The northern region of the state receives the lowest rainfall as compared to the other regions but that rainfall is more than most of the other states of the country. So management is a much bigger issue in these areas. Bore wells are the widely used source of water in the taluk because canals and tanks are not in enough numbers. Due to the excessive digging of these bore wells the groundwater depletion is rapid in the area.
As per the Central Ground water report by the State government of Karnataka 2016-2017, ground water development is made by bore wells as the dug wells zones are less potential and could not sustain for pumping. In general the Bore wells sustain for 2 to 4 hours of pumping. On the basis of ground water development, the taluk is categorised as over exploited (OE), as on 31 March 2013.’
Recently five sugar mills were set up in the basin. Apart from that the Pepsico unit in Dharwad supplies 0.4 million litres of Malaprabha’s water on a daily basis which would be enough to meet the water needs of at least 16,000 people.
One of the solutions suggested to solve the lack of water issue was the Mahadayi water division plan which was first initiated in 1970. The plan suggested feeding some water from Mahadayi to Malaprabha and to store it in Navilatirtha dam in Saundatti on Malaprabha and now Karnataka is demanding to divert 7.56 tmcft water from Mahadayi to fulfil the acute shortage of water in these areas.
The one major factor which is missing here is how the Malaprabha river is itself not being utilised properly. Two major tributaries of Malaprabha, Joul Nalla which joins Malaprabha near the village Konnur and Bennahalla Nalla have not been used sufficiently. The Joul Nalla has a catchment area of 244 sq. kms, and the Bennehalla Nalla has a catchment area of around 5048 sq. kms, which is more than twice the entire Mahadayi basin catchment area.