Uncompleted Project and Role of Water in Irrigation

Capstone Environment Taluk

Guddada Mallapura Lift Irrigation project remains unfinished for a decade in Byadgi Taluk. 

By Ajay Biradar

Bangalore, April 20, 2019

Arvind Bassappa, a farmer, living in a village of Byadgi taluk, is a man in his early 50’s. He is a father of two daughters and two sons. He owns three acres of land and his family of six depends on the money that they make out of his agricultural field. He grows maize in his field and earns approximately one lakh Rupees. But recently, due to low rainfall, he says he has barely earned any rupee from the crops. He lives in a house of one room and one kitchen and is now trying to make a living out of daily wage unskilled labourers’ job.  Describing his situation, he said, “It was always hard for us to make a living out of agriculture, but earlier we at least had some money, with the reducing rain and shortage of water, it has become difficult for me to grow crops as most of the crops dry and die before harvesting. Even if we have any crop left, their shapes and sizes are not appropriate for getting us good selling price”. He also called himself a debt-ridden farmer. He said he has a debt of Rs. 4 lakh which he took for purchasing seeds and fertilisers. He said as he is not able to feed his family properly and also has suicidal tendencies. He mentioned that his situation could have been better if the government would have completed Guddada Mallapura Lift Irrigation project.

Guddada Mallapura Lift Irrigation project was started in Byatanal village of Hangal taluk. It aimed to get water from Varada river, which would be connected to 22 drought-prone villages of Haveri district, Byadgi taluka. The river is around 50 KM away from Byadgi taluka and aims to lift 1000 Million Cubic (TMC) of water which will resolve the water problems of the farmers, but it is still not complete by 2018 while the government had planned to complete it by 2012. The Karnataka government introduced Guddada Mallapura Lift Irrigation Project in 2008, promising the farmers that there would be no shortage of water during the drought. It’s been over almost ten years since the project was started, but it is still not yet completed. Farmers in the villages say that they feel devastated and cheated by the government.

The total cost of the project is Rs. 115.40 crore. The project got clearance by the planning commission in 2009. The project got divided into two parts in which the first phase is completed and the second phase is not even started. The first phase of the project includes the intake channel which is 90 meters long has a bed slope and a design capacity of 5.46 cumec. Four 1050 Horse Power vertical sump were proposed to be installed in a jack well cum sump house. A first stage ridge cistern (Delivery System) is proposed to be provided. A gravity canal would carry water to the irrigation canal and the pumping station of 3.64 cumec capacity. The second phase of the project includes, an underground sump cum pump house is to be constructed at the end of the gravity canal. It will provide 1.46 cumec water to first stage canal. For the second stage pumping, it will offer 2.05 cumec water. A total of 1 TMC of water was supposed to be released to 22 villages in Byadgi taluk after the project is completed. But the then Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah have inaugurated the lift irrigation project in September 2016 without even acknowledging the fact that the second phase of the project is not yet completed.

Mallikarjun Bellary, Byadgi farmer union president said that the farmers of Byadgi are still in the hope of watching the project getting completed at the earliest. He says that the government has cheated the farmers and is now ignoring the problem. “Farmers of the taluk had a hope that the issue of water crisis would be solved after the completion of the project. But this is not the case, and the farmers are still suffering”. While, earlier till 2000 the rainfall in the area was approximately 600 mm on an average, but it is showing a drastic decrease. In 2016 the rain was 500 mm while in 2017-18 the average rainfall is about 270mm. This effects crop growth. During the CM’s visit to Byadgi taluk, a group of farmers from the taluk decided to protest and say that the project is still incomplete, but was unsuccessful as no action was taken.

Rudragowda Kadangowdru, a prominent member of farmers union in Byadgi taluk, said “The project was supposed to benefit twenty-two villages in Byadgi taluk. But only four out of twenty-two villages are getting water to irrigate their land. The other villages would get water if the second phase of the project were completed. The government say that the funds have been allocated for the project. But when we ask the officials why the project is withheld, they have no answer. Even the four villages are not getting water regularly. But it seems that the government have forgotten its promise.”

The deteriorating condition of feeder channels due to blockage and minor irrigation tanks accounts to some of the significant constraints in Haveri district. The district has 92,760 hectares of total net irrigated area. The area irrigated by canals is 5361 hectares. Indian farmers face a lot of problems due to lack of irrigation. They are not able to raise a high-yielding variety of crops. India has only four per cent of the world’s freshwater resources. Due to incomplete projects of the government, lack of irrigation is increasing rapidly which results in the problem of household and drinking water, water logging and drainage problems in villages. However, less rainfall adds to the problems of the farmers. Major issues faced by farmers include low income, rising expenditure on health and education, poor quality seeds, deteriorating soil fertility, lack of proper prices in the market, high interest on private loans, deskilling of farmers which happens when farmers lose their skill of farming due to fewer resources and improper yield.

Nagamma Ammanor, a 43-year-old working woman, while filling her last pot of water and remembers her son as he left his village and migrated to Bengaluru in search of work. She says “My son always wanted to do farming, but because of excess draught and less rainfall, he got so demotivated that to support the family, he migrated to the city. He cries whenever I speak to him because he has to lift bags and work in construction sites which is painful. He hardly earns Rs. 200 -300 a day which is just enough to support his needs. He does other works also to help the family. I want him to pursue farming so that he comes back and stays with me.” She wept.

A research thesis conducted on Haveri district showed, only 17.26 per cent of the area is under irrigation in Haveri district. All other agricultural areas are rain fed. Thus, it is challenging for low wage farmers to manage the drought or water scarcity.  The low range of irrigation was observed in 87 taluks which were distributed in most parts of Karnataka. All the 87 taluks needed watershed management programmes to increase and recharge underground water system. The intensity of Haveri district was calculated by the gross irrigated area and net irrigated area.

In the North Region of Karnataka, with a poor irrigation development, other sources are mainly in the form of diversion of river channels with low, temporary earthen wetlands and their contribution is essential in the district of Haveri. Also, groundwater is one of the significant resources of the drinking water in Bydagi taluk. In the research Study of Seasonal Variations in lake water quality in Bydagi taluka, it documents that the pH values recorded exhibited alkaline nature of subsurface water. The water was alkalic than the subsurface water. The water was alkalic when tested during pre-monsoon and post-monsoon. Furthermore, the acidity and alkalinity values recorded were found to have a very high in correlation with pH; hence the results of the analysis that was done were right. The significant constraints and infrastructure gaps which are generally identified in Haveri district and mainly Bydagi taluk is that there is a tremendous deteriorating condition of minor irrigation tanks and feeder channels because of excess silting, encroachment and other managerial problems , lack of assured and quality power supply in the areas , lack of adequate awareness about alternate crops for better income , inadequate post-harvest facilities and marketing arrangements for agriculture produce .

The Agriculture officer, Srikanth Patil, says, “There is outstanding potential for area expansion under plantation and horticulture, promotion of animal husbandry as a side by side occupation and for setting up agro-processing units. The sustainable technology, skills and investment, should be pushed by the government programmes and stakeholders which is so important and there should be tapping the identified potential for development under each sector.”

He also said, “There are efforts by the irrigation department, but the farmers are still yet to be taught about the general farming and extensive farming methods to increase their market,” he added.

Varada river is one of the tributaries of the river Tungabhadra which has a large catchment that covers parts of Haveri district that receives very less rainfall. The overall drainage pattern is like tree branches. And the trunk stream appears to be controlled by the geological structures at places.

To the contrary in educated families here the sons of farmers often choose to become and continue farming but get discouraged as there is no profit.

Anil Swami, a 27-year-old graduate, says, “I studied and wanted to work, but I wanted to do farming so that my old traditional profession continues. I don’t find happiness in doing any 9-5 job comparatively to what happiness and satisfaction I find in farming. But that’s the problem because there is no profit and we are highly hopeless”.

Balaji Arjgond a farmer from Mallapur village “Whom to blame the water, rainfall, government or our lives we are stranded here, there are no action farming camps organised to teach our fathers and other uneducated farmers. We cannot do anything except for asking our mothers to sell their jewellery to run the family and buy seeds and other equipment”.

The question lies unanswered, and the agriculture department also shows that there is a lot of inconvenience among farmers, but the bitter reality is the dry land which is adjacent to the Tungabhadra tributary is not wet.

 

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