Hemavathi, works as a coolie on a daily wage basis and she is the sole source of income in her family. Four years ago, her husband lost his hand in an accident after which he couldn’t continue to work. Her older daughter helps her to bring water from the closest pipeline that is 20 kilometres away and her younger daughter who is mentally challenged has never visited the hospital for consultation as they cannot afford the medical facility. The times when Hemavathi does not work, she visits the Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigama office in Illkal, Bagalkot district of North Karnataka. Although, her questions are left unanswered or unaddressed by the officers, she never fails to visit them again.
The water crisis in Koppal, where Hemavathi stays is an alarming condition. The villagers receive water in the bore wells once in every two weeks, which is insufficient as Kalalbandi has a population of 2800 people. In order to get more water, the villagers use ground water for various domestic and farming purposes. The ground water in this region of the state is contaminated with fluoride and as a result of directly consuming this water, the villagers have been affected with fluorosis.
When the Government announced that pipelines will be built in Koppal to draw water from the Krishna river, the villagers saw a new ray of hope to solve the issue of water crisis and in 2010, Hemavathi sold her land to the Karnataka Government’s River water linking project department, i.e. the Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigama Project. Apart from the money she was owed for selling her land, as part of the compensation she was promised a relocation of her house and employment in the construction of the river project. Unaware of the procedures that were to be followed, she did not sign any paperwork confirming that the land the Government had bought was hers. Immediately after the sale deed was done, Hemavathi and her family were moved to a village near her land, called Kalalbandi, in Koppal district of North Karnataka. The house she was given as compensation had four walls, without any roof and the condition of the house was unlivable. As the construction of the pipelines on her land was in progress, her request for employment was denied as well.
While one side of the coin is Hemavathi, the other side is the Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigama Project which was one of the rivers linking project proposed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. The plan was meant to build dams across the Krishna River, allowing water flow into the drought regions of North Karnataka. The entire project was divided into three phases, the first one being the project at Yadgir District, the second one in the Belgaum and Koppal District and the third one in the Bagalkot and Vijayapura Districts. The first two phases were announced to be completed five years ago, while in the third phase, the project engineers claim to have lack of Government funds to complete the project so that water can be released in all the three phases. According to Mahantappa, the executive engineer of the project, more than Rs. 10000 crores have been spent on the project ever since it began and at the moment, they are running short of Rs. 5800 crores.
Below, is the data by the Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigama Project that shows how much money has been invested on the project over the last 12 years.
In the second phase of the project in the Koppal region, the government had procured acres of farming land and as compensation the land owners were to be relocated into ready permanent houses, and employment was to be given to them as well. This is where the clashes began between the project authorities and the land owners as these compensations were not given to them.
Venkatesh Srikantaiah, popularly known as the ZenRainMan in Bangalore says that the Krishna River project can be considered to be one of the key examples as to why large-scale projects in India are not effective and do not reach up to their full capabilities. Large dams are un-viable and are not the right solutions to water crisis in the drought regions of India. As an alternative we need to focus on small scale watershed management systems. One of the most successful examples of small-scale watershed managements systems is Satyamev Jayate Water cup initiative started by the Paani foundation in Maharashtra. The water cup competition, is an initiative that was started in 2016 which involves the villager’s first-hand effort in water conservation. The competition requires villager’s to build a cup shaped structure right before the monsoon season so that rain water can be collected in these cups, to ensure that the village is self-sufficient in the forthcoming summer season. The secondary purpose of this initiative is to raise money for the machinery as well as the treat the soil and whichever village collects the largest amount of water, wins the competition and the cup.
Below, are the highlights the Satyamav Jayate water cup initiative over past three years in Maharashtra.