Staring at summer, artificial lakes, ponds save farmers

The farmers and coffee planters in Chikkamagaluru, Hassan and Kodagu districts are involved in a silent but salient revolution to save their water bodies.

This, when the government-owned lakes are slowly being wiped out from the maps, with land sharks finding a perfect spoil in depleting underground water table.

The farmers are exploring every possibility of tapping water by constructing artificial lakes and water tanks, to ensure adequate water for their land. Such indigenous ways are also highly rewarding, with the farmers getting sufficient yield in coffee, arecanut and cardamom even during the summer.

Of the total 2.56 lakh coffee planters in three districts, 98.2% are small planters who are largely dependent on lakes and ponds for the traditional and commercial crops. While the big players with huge estates have not less than 10 to 15 lakes in their land, the small landholders are also not behind.

A decade ago, there were an estimated 50,000 private lakes including three districts. Over 50,000 lakes and 20,000 ponds have come up in the current year and the numbers are expected to grow. It is estimated that over one lakh such artificial water tanks have been constructed in the last one decade in Mudigere, Koppa and NR Pura taluks in Chikkamagaluru district, Sakleshpur and Belur taluks in Hassan district and Somwarpet, Virajpet and Madikeri taluks in Kodagu. Apart from the farmers’ enthusiasm, the consistent encouragement of the Departments of Agriculture and Horticulture as well as the Coffee Board with attractive schemes and subsidies have also come in handy.

‘To each his own’
Such is the parlance that there cannot be a farmer without a lake of his own in Kundur and Sargod in Mudigere taluk. Of the total 30 coffee planters at Talawar next to Kundur, nine have lakes of their own. Natesh, a planter from the neighbouring Basti village, has built a lake spanning four acres to ensure water for his vast tract of 40-acre farm. The very region receives maximum rain, sufficient to rejuvenate water source in the lake.

Nayana, a young planter from Talwar says, once the lake spreading over 8,000 sq feet is full, it ensures water for 80 hours to irrigate crops. Similar is the scene at the coffee estate owned by V G Siddartha of Cafe Coffee Day fame who has hundreds of lakes in his estate.

The list gets longer, with former MLA S L Dharmegowda launching works on building a water tank of the dimension 125x250 feet at his farm in Sakharayapatna near Kadur, which is mostly known as a permanent drought-affected taluk in the district.

According to B S  Jairam, the president of the Federation of Coffee Growers’ Association, if such measures are not adopted, it would henceforth become difficult to grow Robusta coffee.

Diversion complaints
Apart from understanding the significance of storing water for future, the indigenous initiatives have helped in recharging the water table. However, the future holds the key with frequent failure in rains, adding to farmers worry.

Amid this, there are also allegations about some of the farmers diverting the flow of existing natural lakes, thus affecting rivulets. A planter, for instance, has been accused of diverting Doddahalli, a tributary of Bhadra River, towards his lake.
DH News Service

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