Bijapur's watershed moment

development

Bijapur's watershed moment

An ambitious water project to cleanse Bijapur of the drought-prone tag by routing river water to hundreds of tanks is creating waves in the district. But the transition from barrenness to bounty has just begun, writes Ganesh Chandanashiva

The undivided Bijapur in Karnataka, and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, had been considered the most drought-prone districts of the country right from the British era. But a revolutionary initiative in Bijapur is set to rid it of the dubious distinction.

It is not a great invention that has achieved that, but a simple back-to-the-basics approach, of feeding the tanks in the district with water from the Krishna river. Under the first phase costing Rs 116 crore, a jackwell was constructed at Hirepadasalagi in Jamakhandi taluk (now in Bagalkot district).

The river water is lifted from the river basin through the jackwell and supplied through canals, up to the border village of Yatnal, 55 km away. Two separate power sub-stations have been constructed to implement the project.

A total of 23 tanks and seven check-dams now get river water round the year, much to the delight of the farmers. Fifteen more tanks are set to get water in the days ahead.

A total of 0.8 tmc ft of the backwaters of the Almatti dam are coming in handy for the project. For farmer Sadappa Benakatti, the water flourish in the fields is a sea change from the parched days of the past.

The tank in his village was constructed with mud carried to the place with great difficulty on the backs of donkeys, in the 1970s. It is only now that the tank has water all through the year.

The tides turn Tukaram Jadhav, another farmer, shares Benakatti’s joy. For nine months in a year, the tank never used to have water enough to quench even a sparrow’s thirst. Those days are just bitter memories now.
Dharmanna Bilura of Babaleshwar sums up the situation, saying that the Yekkundi tank never goes empty for three years, with just one filling, irrigating vast fields and filling 1,500 borewells in its vicinity.

Fisheries has also received a boost. Summer used to be an eternal nightmare for scores of farmers in the region. They had to fetch water in pots from faraway farms that had water facilities.

The water renaissance has been a cause for comfort for not just the farmers, but also for the livestock which have now enough and more to drink. The project has helped provide drinking water to an estimated 70,000 people in more than 25 villages, say officials of the Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam.

Once a tank is filled, it irrigates not less than 10,000 acres, besides raising the water table in a radius of five km and making water available in borewells. The project has come in for praise from Rajasthan’s legendary water expert Rajendra Singh, who says feeding tanks with river water is a much better option than lift irrigation. The project took shape in 2004, after difficulties were encountered in getting water in borewells even after drilling up to a thousand feet.

Wherever water was available, it was either fluoridated or contained dissolved chemicals, showed tests conducted by the Pha Gu Halakatti College of Engineering in Bijapur, run by the BLDE group of institutions.

The college was instrumental in preparing the blueprint for the project.However, the battle for water is only half won. As many as 130 tanks of Bijapur and 150 in Bagalkot still do not have water for most of the year. A total of 25 villages, even today, get water supplied to them in tankers.

While the first phase, called the Tikota project, has been implemented, work on the ‘Sankha package’ to feed eight tanks in the worst-affected areas of Indi taluk of Bijapur district is yet to begin. The remaining seven phases are likely to pick up pace soon. Tanks coming under the third phase of the Upper Krishna project are set to get water through canals, under a similar project.

(Translated by C V Ramachandra)

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