Malappa Allappa Hanumanawar has been farming ever since he can remember. Farming has been their only source of income. His land is located right next to the river Krishna. About 6 to 7 years ago, the river flooded, completely submerging his land and destroying all the crops. Since this incident, the yield has decreased substantially, causing him huge loses.
After the water receded, a layer of salt was deposited on top of the soil. This salt hinders any growth and completely destroys the nutrients present in the soil. But, this was only the start of many problems yet to be faced by Malappa.
Vishwanath, the Advisor, Biome Environmental Trust, said, “The salt in the soil comes up after being dissolved in the water and when the water evaporates, it leaves behind the salt on top of the soil and the salt makes the soil infertile. It’s called sodicity and the soil cannot harbor life. There’s nothing that can be done. Too much water is worse than no water at all.”
On December 3, 2011, the Karnataka Government announced a 5-year plan to fully use its share of water from the river Krishna. This was called The Upper Krishna Project. Under this project, the height of the Almatti dam has to be increased to 524.256 meters from 519 meters to increase storage capacity. Under this project, the government allotted lands to farmers whose lands will get submerged. ‘Nava Bagalkot’ is being developed solely for this purpose. Then again, this too has its own share of obstacles.
Once the storage capacity is increased, Malappa’s land will be submerged yet again. Once this happens, there is no going back. He says that the government hasn’t even approached them, let alone allot them a new piece of land. If the flooding of his land the first time wasn’t enough, this time his land will be fully submerged. First it was nature, now its mankind who’s causing a great deal of damage.
Vishwanath says that large scale dams are not the solution we need.
“When the state has to make sure its waters are safe, it has to create enough storage and keep the water. That’s, unfortunately, the paradigm. Almatti is the largest dam in Karnataka with the largest storage capacity. Dams displace people. One lakh families are being displaced under this project and the actual beneficiaries are also 1 lakh households ironically. So the question arises is it worth it?” said, Vishwanath.
Globally, dams are being condemned and no new projects are being sanctioned.
“Large scale consensus is that large scale dams are not tenable and we have to find alternatives to that. The social and environmental costs are too much” adds Vishwanath.
The water level has to be increased. The lands have to go. There isn’t any alternative. Both the government and the farmers aren’t ready to budge. But the orders have been passed, without which, water can’t be supplied to the rest of the state. Since this is the Supreme Court’s order, the lands must be procured and the farmers have to go. It is quite a big price to pay by the farmers, for the betterment of the rest of the state.