Damned by a dam

Damned by a dam


Barren and dry: The Malavi reservoir was built to store rainwater that was going waste.

The Malavi reservoir in Bellary district’s Hagaribommanahalli taluk has hardly seen any water ever since the Eighties. The area in and around the reservoir was a treat for the eye, way back in the Eighties, when sugarcane, paddy, groundnut, sunflower and cotton grew here in plenty.

People here are making Herculean efforts to raise some crop or the other by sinking borewells. Because the reservoir has gone dry, the water table has also dipped. Also because the area is not rainfed, the entire region has turned into a dry, barren region. The reservoir itself has reached its maximum level once or twice in the last forty years.

The canals that were constructed to channelise water from the reservoir to farmers’fields have all been buried under silt. Farmers from the taluk had launched a campaign demanding that water from the Bhadra be directed into the reservoir. But no action was taken in this connection. The reservoir is therefore of no use to people here. Malavi was constructed thanks to the efforts of legislator Bachigondanahalli Channabasavana Gouda, during the tenure of S Nijalingappa as chief minister. The dam was built to check rainwater amounting to two TMC, that was running away. By the end of the 1970s, check dams were constructed here and there in villages from where water was being channelised into the reservoir. This meant that the reservoir became empty.

Farmers continue to wonder how the reservoir could be revived. Bellary man N M Nabi, who was part of the State Cabinet, also tried to do something to revive the reservoir, but that was not implemented eventually.

Construction work on the reservoir began in 1959. It reached completion only in 1972. Initially, the expenditure for construction was Rs four crore, but by the time construction ended, Rs 16 crore had been spent. The reservoir is spread across 7,326 acres, and provided water for crops during the 1972-80 period. After 1981, the reservoir could not supply water even for one crop a year. The canals and sub-canals constructed at a cost of Rs 302 lakh suffered from poor maintenance. Farmers’ children from villages in and around the reservoir, such as Malavi, Haregondanahalli, Chintrapalli, Kadlebalu, Byastera, Hiresobati and Bachigondanahalli, migrated to cities in search of work.

Once the reservoir went dry, the borewells in the region also went dry. Today, there’s a drinking water problem in the region.