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Karnataka now India's most arid state, says revenue minister

Karnataka has overtaken Rajasthan as India's most arid state, according to Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, making it an undesirable distinction for a state that otherwise figures among the top in terms of growth and development indicators.
harath Joshi
Last Updated : 13 April 2024, 16:13 IST
Last Updated : 13 April 2024, 16:13 IST

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Bengaluru: Karnataka has overtaken Rajasthan as India's most arid state, according to Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, making it an undesirable distinction for a state that otherwise figures among the top in terms of growth and development indicators.

"Karnataka was the second most arid state based on old statistics. But going by new numbers, Karnataka has the highest dryland farming, it is the most rain-dependent and most drought-prone state," Gowda told a news conference.

Gowda used this data point to attack the Modi administration for not responding to Karnataka's water needs by way of funding or approving various irrigation and drinking water projects.

Speaking to DH, Gowda elaborated on why Karnataka has surpassed Rajasthan. "First, Rajasthan was irrigated via the Haryana border. Later, it got water from Narmada via the Gujarat border. Now, I think Rajasthan's irrigation coverage is about 40 per cent. But in terms of vulnerability to drought, Karnataka's is higher than Rajasthan's," he said.

"The question of vulnerability doesn't arise if you're permanently drought-prone. For example, there are regions in Rajasthan where crops just don't grow. That's that. But in Karnataka, rainfall is unpredictable. That's why we're more vulnerable to drought," Gowda explained.

This being the case, Gowda said every drop of water is important for Karnataka.

"In the 2023-24 Union budget, it was announced that Rs 5,300 crore of central assistance would be provided to the Upper Bhadra Project for sustainable irrigation and filling up of surface tanks for drinking water in the drought-prone central Karnataka region. Despite requesting with folded hands, not a paisa was given. It was only for publicity," Gowda said.

When it comes to the Mahadayi project, Gowda pointed out that Karnataka was awarded 13.4 tmcft of water in 2019 by the tribunal, which was notified by the Union government in February 2020. "Four years on, environmental clearance needed to start work is pending. The Centre isn't allowing us to use the water that's awarded to us," he said.

Gowda also slammed the Union government for not giving its go-ahead to the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project in the Cauvery basin, which he said would also help Bengaluru.

"Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Karnataka, we'd like him to answer why his government is doing this," Gowda said.

The minister also raised the issue of delimitation. "If Parliamentary seats are decided based on the new Census, then the number of seats in South India will reduce from 129 seats to 103 seats. We're not against the new Census, but proportionality of the 1971 Census should be maintained," he said.

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Published 13 April 2024, 16:13 IST

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