Karnataka woke up to massive protests across North Karnataka districts of Gadag, Hubli-Dharwad and Belagavi on Thursday, following the Mahadayi Tribunal on Wednesday rejecting the interim plea of the Karnataka government to release 7.50 tmc of water to Malaprabha river through the Kalasa-Banduri canal.
The Tribunal order has led to farmers intensifying the ongoing Kalasa-Banduri agitation at Nargund, which completed one year this July. The angry protesters have alleged that the state MPs and the state government have done little to effectively represent and resolve the case. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has assured of holding an all-party meeting to decide the next course of action.
The Kalasa-Banduri Nala (diversion) project was taken up by Karnataka to enable drawing 7.56 tmcft of water from the inter-state Mahadayi to provide drinking water to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and the districts of Belagavi and Gadag, which suffer most during drought years. The Tribunal headed by J.N. Panchal on Wednesday rejected Karnataka’s plea seeking release of 7.5 tmc of water. The Ruling Congress is blaming NDA government for "not intervening" though Goa is under the BJP rule.
It may be recalled that the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was constituted in November 2010 (under the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956) to adjudicate between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra. But the issue dates back to 1980s, when Malaprabha dam failed to yield enough water to irrigate the fields in its command area. The Water Resources Development Organisation (WRDO) had then reported a deficit of 17 tmc (against an estimated maximum yield of 45 tmc) in the dam. The drought-prone regions (tail-end villages in the Malaprabha basin) could benefit by diverting water from the Mahadayi river. Karnataka envisaged the Kalasa-Banduri canal project and Mahadayi-Malaprabha river linking project when S.M. Krishna was chief minister.
In April 2002, the NDA government gave its approval in principle, but stayed the project in September after Goa, the lower riparian state, and green brigade opposed it citing ecological hazard. While some experts said change in cropping pattern in the water-scarce Malaprabha basin could help, Goa sought to know why Karnataka could not harness the Krishna waters for drinking water instead of tapping the Mahadayi.
In 2006, the H.D. Kumaraswamy government revived the canal project. Karnataka started building two canals (at a cost of Rs 400 crore) connecting the Kalasa and Banduri tributaries of the Mahadayi to Malaprabha basin to supply drinking water to twin cities. The canal work along Kalasa-Banduri (in non-forest areas pending clearance from the ministry of environment and forests) was stalled and the government forced to give an undertaking which barred automatic flow of water into the canals till the tribunal gave its decree. Twin cities of Hubli and Dharwad and taluks Navalgund, Nargund, Saudatti and Ron continue to go thirsty.
•The Mahadayi river originates in Kanakumbi village in Belgaum district. It flows 29km in Karnataka before entering Goa.
•In Goa, the Mahadayi (known as the Mandovi) flows 54km before joining the Arabian sea.
•Reports suggest that the water yield in the Mahadayi is about 200 to 210 thousand million cubic feet. Of this, Karnataka’s share is 47tmc feet and Maharashtra’s share is 17.5tmc feet.
•A WRDO report suggests Mahadayi water could be diverted to a water-deficient Malaprabha dam.
•Karnataka has proposed Mahadayi-Malaprabha river linking project and the Kalasa-Banduri canal project to supply water to the fields in Malaprabha area and drinking water to water-starved Hubli-Dharwad twin cities, Navalgund (Dharwad), Nargund (Gadag) and Badami (Bagalkot).
•Kalasa-Banduri canal project comprises building of two barrages (dams) across Kalasa and Banduri—tributaries of the Mahadayi—to divert 7.56tmc feet to the Malaprabha for supplying drinking water.
•The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal set up in 2010 has made little progress, though Karnataka has started building canals in the non-forest area (pending clearances from ministry of environment and forests). The delay in awarding decree has triggered a farmers’ revolt in the region.
Karnataka's Utilisation Plan
Diversion of Kalasa •Banduri to Malaprabha for drinking water supply to Hubli-Dharwad cities and enroute villages-7.56 tmcft •Basin use-1.5 tmcft •Mahadayi Hydro Electric Project-14.9 tmcft •Diversion to Kali dam for augment power generation-5.5 tmcft •Diversion of surplus water from Kotni dam for irrigation-7 tmcft •TOTAL = 36.55 tmcft( against a share of 45 tmc estimated by Central Water Commission)