Villages in Mundargi facing test of water


Many small villages in the Taluk are yet to be connected with river Tungabhadra

Dambal may not come across as unusual to any individual. A village located in the Mundargi Taluk of Karnataka’s Gadag district, it is not the birth place of a popular person or a place where a revolutionary war took place. Yet, there is something about this region that people need to know about.

Mundargi, the Taluk in which Dambal is situated, is one of the most severely drought-hit areas of the state and faces a lot of problem when it comes to irrigation. The river Tungabhadra, which flows through Karnataka, has managed to provide this Taluk with water for irrigation. However, there are villages in Mundargi which are yet to reap the benefits.

The water from river Tungabhadra does not suffice the needs of Dambal Hobli. The Dambal Tank, which was built during the times of

the British, helps the farmers to store water for irrigation purposes. It has been only two years since the water from the river has been connected to the tank. Yet, it is not enough.

The water from the tank is sufficient to cover certain parts of the village. Only a few farms in the area manage to receive water from there. As for others, they solely rely on rain water.

The village has a total of 3900 acres of farmland out of which only 1300 acres of farm manage to receive water through the Dambal tank. But the other farms solely depend on rain water, and face crisis because of it. The farmers of that area say that if there isn’t sufficient rain, they would face losses as the crops wouldn’t grow without water.

Mr Gurikar, the Block District Officer of Mundargi stated that the authorities are trying to find a way to help the farmers of the Dambal village through various methods.  However, Mr. Gurikar was unable to give an answer for why villages in the region did not have complete access to water from the river Tungabhadra. Mr Gowri Shankar, the Block Technical Officer of the Agriculture Department, Mundargi said that efforts have been made to improve the situation in Dambal hobli, and that the supply of Tungabhadra River water was one of the initiatives. He also added that the authorities woke up to act on this issue very late.

Further, he told that Dambal got linked with Tungabhadra River only two years back, because of the lack of interest and intention of the higher authorities. Mr Gowri Shankar threw light on the fact that have been two to three cases of farmers suicides in villages like Hallikeri and Pettalur, which are yet to be connected to river water.

On their part, the authorities have said that they are trying to help the farmers tackle the situation by providing them subsidies and irrigation facilities. They have set up farm ponds near the land, and have also provided the farmers with sprinklers.

The government had its hands forced, given the precarious situation in the area, and made efforts to provide relief to the villagers by introducing farm ponds and cloud seeding. Though, just like many of their initiatives, it has been much of promise and very less of implementation.

The farmers though, had different opinions regarding the situation and measures taken by the officials and authorities. For them, relying extensively on rain for irrigation is a terrible situation, and that nothing much has been done despite promises.

GV Hiremat, owns farm lands in Dambal. He said that the government has done nothing to improve the situation of irrigation in the village. He also mentioned that farmers face huge losses whenever there is inadequate or no rain. Further, he added that Dambal is not the only village in the taluk which faces such an unprecedented situation.

When irrigation is not available, farmers fail to grow crops in their lands and eventually face severe losses. In this context, Hiremat said that while there was no case of suicide in Dambal, there were cases of farmers committing suicide in nearby villages due to debts and losses.

Basavraj Pyati, an organic farmer in Dambal echoed similar views. He said that while his farm receives water for irrigation through bore wells and sprinklers, there are many farms in the area which fail to get water.

Bashir Ahmed, a farmer and a trader in that area said that there has been no help or initiative from the government to tackle the irrigation situation. He also said that the only thing done by the authorities is to provide the farmers with insurance. In the case of failed crop due to drought, the farmers can claim the amount from insurance.

He further added that the losses of a farmer can go up to Rs 10,000 in case of bad rain. Also, he stated that the insurance money is never received on time, and if and when it comes, it is never enough to sustain their living.

The Hindu reported in 2015 that a budget provision of Rs 5,768 crore was brought in to get 48,831 acres of farmland under flow irrigation, and 2,16,848 acres under drip irrigation. This was done by the state CM Siddaramaiah.

Gadag and Mundargi Taluk were the biggest beneficiary of this move. Nearly 66,827 acres (micro-irrigation in 27,754 acres) in Gadag Taluk and 92,281 acres (micro-irrigation in 37,095 acres) in Mundargi Taluk benefited from this revised plan, as irrigation facility was provided to 1,59,108 acres in Gadag district.

The very next year, i.e. December 2016, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah inaugurated the third phase of the Singatur Lift Irrigation Project. Under this, water would be lifted from the Tungabhadra River to a height of 214 metres in order to provide enough water to Gadag and Mundargi Taluk in Gadag district.

T V Ramachandra, an agriculture expert said that the basis of farming relies completely on irrigation, and a situation in which a farmer is relying on rain for farming shows the inability of the authorities. He also added that drought- hit areas should be provided with modern techniques that will help the farmers save water during the rain period.

Ramachandra further added that Tungabhadra River does not have enough water to provide irrigation to all the farmlands in the Taluk, and it is the responsibility of the authorities to make sure steps are taken in order to maximise the usage of water.

The Dambal Hobli tank got linked with Tungabhadra River in late 2016. Before that, the tank had to rely completely on rain water. Dambal has a total of 36,000 hectares of land for irrigation. But the major concern is that the tank is only able to provide water to 10,000 hectare for irrigation. The rest of the farms have to solely depend on rain, and in case of drought, they suffer huge losses.

While Dambal has managed to get water from the river, partially, there are other villages which have no supply of water from the river. Villages like Hallikeri, Halligudi, Petalur and others have suffered the apathy of the government.

The government on their part are building canals and water pipelines, but the rate at which the work is going is very slow.

Another major reason why villages in Mundargi taluk get less water is because most of the water from the river is diverted towards the district area of Gadag. The need for drinking water in the main district has resulted in  irrigation issues for farmers in villages.

Regarding this, the farmers went on a strike last year, and again last week. They had also sent a letter to the District officer in Gadag, but it made no difference.

The authorities have said that work has been going on in order to provide water to villages in the Mundargi Taluk. A water pipeline is said to be built from Hammigi Bridge to Gadag in order to provide 24*7 water supply. The work is said to be ongoing right now.

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