A dream that has remained just that

A dream that has remained just that

Project blues: Much water has flowed down the Krishna, but State hasnt got much of it

untapped: The irrigation and power generation potential of the Almatti reservoir is yet to be realised fully. dh photo

The river Krishna originates in western Maharashtra, flows through Karnataka and joins Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh. Its delta region is one of the most fertile in the country.
Karnataka has over 70 per cent of Krishna basin and the Upper Krishna Project was conceived with the ambitious plan of harnessing the available water to the hilt.

The project covers Bijapur, Bagalkot, Gulbarga and Raichur districts. The construction of a gargantuan dam at Almatti, a vantage location in the basin, was a major component of the project, and work began in 1964, giving rise to a dispute among Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh over sharing of the river water.

The Centre instituted the R S Bachawat Tribunal to decide on the sharing of river water. The Tribunal, in its award pronounced in 1973, allotted the water among all the three States. Karnataka got 734 tmc ft under ‘A’ scheme and the award laid down that the State must utilise its share before 2000.

However, the award was notified in the Gazette only in 1976. What followed later is a sordid saga of official apathy and lack of political will.

Inordinate delay

Karnataka should have utilised its share of water through irrigation projects - dams, major and distributory canals and lift irrigation projects. Storing of water in the Almatti dam started in 2000, almost four decades after the work began, and at the fag end of the ‘A’ scheme period. Moreover, none of the projects designed to utilise the water was completed before the end of the last century.

And much water flowed down the Krishna all these decades, only to merge with Bay of Bengal through Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka thus failed to harness the potential of the available water. Obviously, the loss cannot be quantified.

The first and second phase of the project envisaged construction of Almatti left and right bank canals.

It was projected that the first phase would irrigate 16,200 hectares and another 16,100 hectares in the second phase. The work on Almatti dam and first phase of Mulavada lift irrigation project too should have progressed simultaneously. The lift irrigation project was expected to be completed in three phases.

Unfortunately, all the projects remained on paper, and Krishna flowed through the State untapped.  The only perceptible work done during the period was the Indi left bank canal. The progress on the rest was limited to plans and reports.

“Severe injustice has been done to farmers as the State miserably failed in implementing even half of the Bachawat award,” rued Basavaraj Kumbara, president of Krishna Basin Irrigation Action Committee. The second tribunal has come up with its award even as projects taken up under the award of the first tribunal are nearing completion. Strict compliance would have resulted in utilising at least 600 tmc ft under ‘A’ scheme, turning North Karnataka into a lush green region.

Lesson from Andhra

Karnataka perhaps has a lesson to be learnt from Andhra in utilising Krishna water. Even as the Bachawat award was out, Andhra had all the necessary projects in the pipeline and successfully utilised its share. It had even planned ‘B’ scheme projects.

“We cannot get back the water that has flown untapped all these years. But the government should at least wake up now to ensure that benefits of ‘B’ scheme are utilised fully,” Kumbara said.

Irrigation has reached only 20 percent of Bijapur district even after a decade of water storage in Almatti dam.

An enlightened farming community too plays a pivotal role in ensuring compliance with the award. The ‘A’ scheme award came at a time when farmers were in the dark over the issue.

However, the present mood of the peasants indicates a determination to see that the award is implemented in toto.

DH News Service

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