Natural calamities snuffed out many lives

The road to 2019 has not been an easy one for Karnataka, which witnessed the worst of natural calamities that dominated the headlines, unforeseen deaths and heightened disputes for water with neighbours.  

The year witnessed devastating floods in the hill district of Kodagu and parts of coastal Karnataka, one of the worst in recent times, when neighbouring Kerala also reeled under nature’s fury.

At least 18 persons died and over 2,500 homes were damaged since April, when rains started in Kodagu district. Between August 8 and 19 alone, the district received 700-1,712 mm rainfall, a 100-700% departure from normal rainfall.

The district administration, the Dogra, and Madras Engineering Group (MEG) regiments of the Indian Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Civil Defence mobilised a massive week-long rescue operation. The government estimated a total loss of Rs 1,402 crore.

And then there was the drought, Karnataka’s fifth consecutive one. The state government has declared 100 taluks across 24 districts as drought-hit, and has estimated losses to the tune of Rs 16,662 crore. The government has sought a financial assistance of Rs 2,434 crore from the Centre.

Tackling drought became all the more arduous because farmer suicides continued. Since June, 377 farmers have committed suicide across the state, mounting further pressure on the government to expedite the crop loan waiver process.

Karnataka also had to face tense moments as far as sharing river waters with its neighbours is concerned. In August, the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal ordered allocation of 5.4 tmcft to Karnataka, while allowing surplus water to flow into the sea. The Tribunal granted 1.33 tmcft to Maharashtra and 24 tmcft to Goa. This “resulted in grave miscarriage of justice,” Karnataka has contended.

Mekedatu project

In a boost to Karnataka, the Centre gave its approval for a detailed project report (DPR) to be prepared for the Mekedatu reservoir across the Cauvery.

For the Bengaluru-based Indian Space Research Organization (Isro), the year proved to be a mixed one. The premier space agency lost contact with its communication satellite for military applications (GSAT- 6A) two days after the launch in March.

GSAT-11 launched

Weeks later, Isro rescheduled the launch of another communication satellite (GSAT-11), which was subsequently launched early December. With new chairman K Sivan at the helm of affairs, the agency also carried out a major demonstration in July of technology relevant for human spaceflight.

The year also saw the Special Investigation Team of the Bengaluru city police arresting a few right-wing activists for the killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her residence in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar in September
2017.

Karnataka faced a setback on the environment front with the death of Gadag Tontadarya Mutt seer Siddalinga Swami in October.

Focused on propagating Basava philosophy initially, Siddalinga Swami shot to fame with his struggle seeking preservation of the biodiversity-rich hill range of Kappatagudda in Gadag district. His relentless fight against the mining giants earned him the title ‘Green Swami’ in north Karnataka.

Sandalwood was arguably the biggest loser with the sudden demise of veteran actor M H Amarnath, fondly known as ‘rebel star’ Ambareesh. He was 66. Ambareesh’s passing away has left a deep void in the Kannada film industry after the deaths of thespians Dr Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan. Ambareesh also made a name for himself in politics and served as a minister at the Centre as well as the
state.

Temple tragedy

Tragedy struck in November when 30 passengers of a private bus were killed after the speeding vehicle plunged into a canal in Mandya
district. In another incident in December, 17 people died and over 100 others were hospitalised after they consumed poison-laden prasada served at the Kichchugutti Maramma temple at Sulvadi village of Chamarajanagar district on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border.

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Natural calamities snuffed out many lives

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