Byadgi taluk in Haveri looks out for ways to change their existing situation.
A line of distressed women wipe off the sweat on their foreheads. The wait for water from this one tap in an area of 433 sq metres is very similar to finding God for these women. It’s the first day of the week and they are hoping some water droplets start pouring down from here. The daughters are asked to sit down to avoid the heat. A small girl, who is probably five years of age, leads the line and is standing there with a bucket in hand, hoping to fill it soon and run off to play.
In 2015, the same taluk was declared drought prone and has been struggling for water since then. Byadgi, a small taluk in the Haveri district has an average rainfall 729 mm but still struggles for water. Every day is a challenge not only at homes but even at the farms. There is shortage of water in the taps along with the bore well. Every other day is a struggle for the farmers. Every time they dig a borewell, all they get are heaps of mud instead of water.
G.N.Tipangowda, a farmer by profession and a father of four, every other afternoon, sends his sons to the field with six empty buckets. His big family stays under one roof and the stored water is never enough. “My wife along with the other women of the house did store water but it was used up all yesterday, I have to send my sons to get water from the bore well in the field, how else will the house function,” he points out to the obvious. Tipangowda has a fifty hectare land on which he grows cotton and maize. His crops this year have also failed, second time consecutively. “The crops are failing every year. Water is a problem for not only me but everyone here,” adds Tipangowda. Speaking about the education for his children, Tipangowda’s eyes shine with a hint of pride. “ My daughter studied a lot, she speaks in english!,” he claims. His sons, though are seen at home along with the qualified daughter. “If I send all of them to study, who will go fill water, my daughter along with the other women in the house helps my wife to fill water. My sons on the other hand help me at the farm, they finished studying till 12th grade but now I need them at the farm to help me with various things, mostly digging up borewells.”
Haveri has seven taluks and 706 villages. The district also has 162 APMC yards for trading under it and an average rainfall of about 797 mm. The district has an agricultural land 428754 hectares majorly growing Jowar, cotton, rice, chillies, gram, groundnut, sunflower, sugarcane, and oilseeds. Byadgi a small taluk in the district has an area of 433 sq metres is famous for chillies. Byadgi chillies have a geographical indication tag of 144 given to it in 2011. Along with it, Byadgi is the second largest producer of chillies. Taluk even though has a huge produce of chillies is seen struggling with water to meet their daily as well as farm needs.
The taluk recieves water once in fifteen days or sometimes once even in a month in the form of supply water from the district. “We get water quite rarely, thus every household struggles to meet its daily needs ,” says G.N.Tipangowda. Every day, one sees a huge line of buckets in front of the overhead tanks installed even when there is no water coming out of the taps. The buckets are an equivalent to reserved spot when water comes. The owner of the bucket that is first in line, gets the taste of water first, followed by others. “We have these huge drums and storage spaces in my house, just so that we can store whatever water is available to us,” claims G.N.Tipangowda’s wife. “For me, it is the same routine, I do not remember washing utensils with the tap, we have stored water in whatever storage we find, buckets, big utensils, drums, anything. We just use that water for cooking, washing, bathing and everything else. But it generally gets over before there corporation sends us our dosage again, we then help each other. Borrow and lend. If there is water in the bore (looking at the borewell), my sons go and fetch some for the house, they keep cribbing though, they keep giving me a glare and crib about how the farm would function if we keep bringing water here and I being the mother just laugh it off like every other mother!” she adds with a laugh. Even when she is laughing, she keeps washing her utensils trying to not let any drop go waste. She picks up the dirty utensils and instead of splashing water just dips it in and then washes it. She then uses a damp cloth to wash it again and dry it. Her actions prove how important every drop is for her.
In the same taluk, exists a village called Mallur, population of about 3000 people, the taluk is on the banks of a naturally created reservoir. The reservoir was created years ago through rainwater. There are farmers bathing their cattle in the water on one side, the other side has a little boy defecating on its banks. Entering the village, it gives a complete indication as to how this village, atleast, would be immune to water problems but alas.
U M Mali, a farmer and a contract worker sees the cattle and walks past ignoring it completely as if it is a daily occurrence. “We do have toilets; I built all the toilets in this area myself. I was given the contract but there is no water to waste in the toilets. For usage or even for cleaning,” he adds
The problem in Byadgi is not open defecation but water. The lack of water forces people to go and defecate in the open. Every house in Mallur has a small toilet but every toilet has a latch infront indicating it is not being used . “Its not that we don’t use the toilets at all, we do use it. But when we know that there isn’t much matter to sustain the house, we opt out,” adds Mali.
The village has two such water bodies. One at the very beginning of the village and the other at other end. The second naturally created reservoir has nothing but algae. This water body is not used to even bathe the cattle because it already has a lot of inhabitants in it but is mostly used to defecate.
“The problem here is not that we don’t have toilets. They are been built but people are reluctant to use it, who would want towaste so much water in the toilets. All the toilets that are built here have their sewage sysytem that throws the waste in that lake,” Mali adds pointing to the water body created at the edge of the residents. The water body in itself looks as a ray of hope for the village only if that water was purified and used under MGNREGA (Mahatama Gandhi National Guarantee Rural Employement Act). Under MGNREGA, a project was launched called the ‘Mission Water Conservation’ along with other two flagship projects called Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana(PMKSY) and Integrated Watershed Management Programme(IWMP). All three of these projects have the same objective, making water more available to the rural India along with conserving the existing resources. In quite simple terms, one of the objectives under MGNREGA is to sustain the already existing water resources. The idea is to harvest the water that is present and revive old lakes and ponds to fulfil the water needs in a particular village or taluk.
According to the first schedule, MGNREGA had identified 155 projects, 100 of which were natural water conservation projects. After the National Water Conservation mission was announced, the three flagships were converged together and all monitory resources have also been combined. A total of 2264 projects have being identified and it is clear that about 65% of the funds would go in for National Reserve Conservation programme. Byadgi, however is immune to the idea of this programme. The gram panchayats have no idea that that there is a scheme under which they could revive their existing water resources .They can use the lakes naturally formed for their personal use rather than letting it go waste. “This is just waste water, how can it be used again? We don’t know of any such scheme. We once spoke amongst ourselves to use this water but soon realised that we were wasting our time in even discussing. What can come out of this? Look how dirty it is. All our waste goes here,” says Ganeshappa, a member of Mallur gram panchayat. “The only thing it can be used is washing cattle and that is what we do with it. The one behind has too much algae and nothing can be done to it. There is nothing else we can do to it. It is just plain water used by the cattle and defecation,” says P.V.S.Bankar, a farmer and resident of the village. Rajni Patil, who is the daughter of a farmer in the village and is studying M.A. in political Science says, “We are managing with bore wells and this once in a while water supply, you really think this water can be used?” The village even though struggles with water and sees this water body as just another stop to wash and bathe the cattle in. MGNREGA can be used to harvest and clean the existing water body which can actually solve a lot of water issues not only in the homes but also the farms.
The district in itself has Rs. 65.3 crores allocated to it for water. Out of this, Byadgi as a taluk has been given Rs,683 lakhs, under NRDWP(National Rural Drinking water programme). The programme was first started under the UPA government. It’s main aim was to provide clean, drinking water along with adequate water to every house for domestic purposes such as cooking and washing. It is a centrally funded scheme, under which Byadgi has been given Rs. 683 lakh. The taluk, however only has two projects under NRDWP(National Rural Drinking water programme) , one in Motebennur and one in Kaginellie. Motebennur is the most populous village in the taluk with the population of 8305 people. The project however supplies water to only 47 villages of the taluk, out of the existing 65 villages. “We have proposed one more project to be made in the Byadgi town itself for the remaining 17 villages. It is a Rs.82 crore project that we have proposed, we are hoping it gets sanctioned in this budget,” says Vinayak Hullur, executive engineer, Rural Water and Santitaion. These seventeen villages suffer more water problems than the other 47 for obvious reasons. There is a problem of even hiring a tanker as it costs a lot. “We sometimes call a private tanker because there is absolutely no water for us, but it costs us almost Rs.3000 and with crops failing it is difficult to manage. We don’t even have money to pay our loans back, spending it on tanker is a huge deal for us,” says Mali.
The tankers are deployed from the district and sent to the taluk. The project that has been proposed is supposed to link the taluk to Kaveri River hence increasing the water supply to it. Along with it, the project would come up with ideas to harvest the rain water that would actually help the villagers to make the most use of the water that is available naturally.
On the other hand, the rural water and sanitation takes a diffirent course to solve the issue. “We take the existing borewells on rent from the farmers. There is a lot of water problems in the area, not only in terms of supplied but also groundwater. But the farmers who have a lot of water from their borewell, give us their borewell on rent for a while. We usually pay them Rs.8000 to Rs.10,000 per month,” says Hullur. He also adds that this method is more economically feasible to the department. “If we have to dig our own borewell, the cost of digging and then the motor and other electronics will be more than Rs.70,000 for a one time thing, this way we save on money and time. We do this for maximum five months till we try finding an alternate solution. But this is a situation when water is availble in the borewell as well, if we don’t find such a farmer, we usually rent out tanks and send it to the taluk because there is no other option.” The major source of water to Byadgi taluk is Tungabhadra river and even though a few pipelines are laid and overhead tanks built, there isn’t water as well as resources to send water to Byadgi everyday and hence Byadgi finds alternatives to survive.
The cries of the farmers are no less than the people at home. They struggle to find not only for their houses but also for their crops. Mohamad Ali, has tears and hope in his eyes when asked to talk about how the crops are faring. He has a family of six and has been in debt of banks and money lenders from the day he started farming. “I don’t know how many years has it been, I only know that I have been in debt,” says Ali.
Looking at the farm, all one can see is a huge land filled with dried and wasted cotton. With the sun shining high, the failure of the crops is more visible. “This is my second yield that has failed. I tried digging bore wells, in every 600 metres. In seems like my farm has more bore wells than the crops itself,” Ali laughs it off. “My farm some time ago had four bore wells, but none of them lasted more than a month. After a month’s time, it was all back to square one. Two months, trust me, two months, I kept digging and only got mud out and nothing else. Crops keep failing year after year; there is no solution that we have. My bore wells are not enough to fulfil the house needs as well so we borrow water from our neighbours when we run out of it,” laments Ali.
He is not the only farmer crying out of water shortage. Farmers opt for other jobs when they see their crops failing to sustain their families. “I have a family of seven. Two of my children are studying; my daughter is in eighth grade and my son in third. I have to maintain my family expense, can’t only depend on crops that keep failing. I have one bore well on my land which does not have even a drop of water. Cotton needs loads of water so I switched to maize but that too is not giving any results. I, thus opt for labour work. I either work on other farms or any other small labour work. My wife too helps me with the expenses. She works at the APMC yard plucking chillies. That’s the least we can do to sustain the house, since crops keep failing,” says Samalingappa Kulkarni, a farmer and resident of the taluk.
The lack of water in the taluk forces the youth to migrate to the cities in search of success and prosperity. “All our children see us struggling for water in the taluk everyday, they don’t want their lives to be this and thus move to Bangalore. Not all of us can spend on education, some of us do spend even though it is difficult for us, and we manage. I spent on both my children’s education and as soon as they got a chance, they moved out of here and honestly I didn’t want to stop them,” says U M Mali. He also adds that since there is a lot of migration, there is a lack of labour and thus people are sceptical to let their children study more because they think if all their children move out, the labour would become zero and it would be absolutely impossible to survive here.
The taluk is aware of what it’s lacking and saves every drop. “People here know the value of water. They may not understand the importance of education or any other thing but they know water is to them. They don’t care if it’s purified or not purified or whatever, they just know it’s water and use and save every drop of it,” says Uma Tipangowda, PHD in political science. Her father’s eyes shine as he looks at her speaking. “See! I told you she speaks English,” exclaims G.N.Tipangowda.
Prabhudeva, a scientist working in the horticulture of Haveri district says, “The taluk struggles with its water way too much and has been suffering for quite a while now, only if the natural created reservoirs were put to use. They have no idea what transformation that small part of water can do to their lives.”
At every third step that is taken in the taluk, someone or the other is seen with a pull cart that has atleast six to seven buckets or even more going towards Byadgi town or any other place they might find water. Travelling kilometres together is no big deal for the people of the taluk since that is now their daily routine.
“Ab toh sirf bhagwan pe hi bharosa hai. Hume pata hai vo hai aur vo hi dhyaan rakhega ab (We have all our hopes on God now. We know he is there and he will take care of us now) ,” says Shankar Yerappa Haramgatti, a farmer and labourer.