Led by Chamarasa Malipatil, honorary president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, and Tipparaju Hawaldar and Shivaraj Patil, MLAs from Raichur Rural and Raichur City, respectively, hundreds of farmers blocked State Highway 20 at Saath Mile Cross for two hours on Tuesday demanding sufficient water for standing crops in the tail-end areas of the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal (TLBC).They alleged that the officials of Department of Water Resources had joined hands with powerful landowners in the upper reaches of the canal who were illegally using water to irrigate their unauthorised land.“Standing crops are drying up due to lack of water. Most of the water released from the Tungabhadra reservoir is being used by farmers in Gangavathi and Karatagi areas in Koppal district that are immediately downstream the dam. Since more than 1.5 lakh acres of unauthorised land in these areas are illegally irrigated using the canal water, we are facing water shortage in the tail-end areas,” an agitating farmer said.
The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has planned to mobilise farmers from tail-end parts of the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal (TLBC) to block State Highway 23 at Manvi on Monday demanding sufficient water for irrigation at the lower reaches of the canal.
The district unit of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene has urged the State government to declare Ballari district drought-hit and to take steps to effectively tackle the situation.Addressing reporters on Tuesday, Darur Purushotamgouda, president of the unit, said owing to failure of follow-up rains, farmers of the district were facing a crisis.Standing crops on around 1.95 lakh ha in rain-fed areas across the district are withering and are now being removed by farmers.
According to him, the plight of the farmers in the Tungabhadra command area is no better. They too are facing water shortage for the kharif crop cultivated on about 1.5 lakh ha this year, as the failure of rains means the storage in the dam is low.
Farmers and their leaders, elected representatives and even officials at the Department of Water Resources unanimously attributed water crisis at the canal’s lower reaches to illegal expansion of irrigation at the upper reaches. But, nobody exactly knows the extent of illegal expansion. For, no survey has been conducted even though the water crisis and resultant farmers’ agitations have been yearly phenomena for the last several years.“Around 1.75 lakh acres of unauthorised lands in upper reaches of TLBC, most of which are in Gangavathi taluk in Koppal district, are illegally irrigated using around 600 cusecs of Tungabhadra water. As a result, over 2 lakh acres of authorised lands in lower reaches of the canal in Manvi, Raichur, and parts of Sindhanur taluks in Raichur district are deprived of their legitimate share of water,” D. Veerana Gowda, a leader of Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha, said.