Bengaluru/New Delhi: After persistent droughts for at least six years, Karnataka has received 25% excess rainfall this monsoon, raising water levels in dams.

Till 27 June, the state had received 202.3mm of rainfall compared to the normal of 162.4mm. Out of the 30 districts in the state, 13 reported above-normal rains and 14 recorded normal showers, while only three districts reported deficient rainfall.

However, excess rainfall has also wreaked havoc across many parts of Karnataka causing 119 deaths, large-scale destruction of property and land slides, according to the state government.

Despite a good start to the monsoon season, uncertainty looms large in the state over the usage of water, especially among the over 40-million farming community, who has seen their income decline due to limited agricultural activity and falling prices of produce in recent years. Much of the concern arises from the newly-constituted Cauvery Management Authority (CMA), which has been set up to monitor the release of river water to all stakeholder states as mandated by the Supreme Court.

“Once the authority and regulation board comes into force, they will have to verify and approve the release of Cauvery river water," said a senior official at Karnataka water resources department, requesting anonymity. Despite protests by Karnataka, the centre had constituted the CMA with two nominees from the state, and it is likely to start functioning in July.

Farmers are also worried about the diversion of additional water to Bengaluru, which leaves many surrounding districts and their farms with less water. “Every time we see water levels go up in the dams, there is an active effort to divert it to Bengaluru. The state government has a good chance to give our region some water after the SC verdict on water sharing, but we are unsure if the political class has the will to do this," said a farmer activist in Hassan, about 180km from Bengaluru.

Farmers, who are eager to sow new crops but do not have access to fresh credit, are on the edge.

While the 8,165 crore farm loan waiver announced by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in July 2017 is still in limbo, there has been no clarity on the quantum of waiver that is likely to be announced by the new government led by H.D. Kumaraswamy.

“The state has been rain deficit for the last several years, but the monsoon has been good for the state this year, particularly along the western coast. The monsoon current has been very strong. But we must understand that it is part of the natural monsoon variability. It varies from year to year and unless the rise is persistent, we cannot conclude that there is an upward trend," said A.K. Shrivastav, head, climate monitoring and analysis group, India Meteorological Department-Pune.

With deficit annual monsoon rainfall every year, the state has been hit by droughts since 2011. As many as 24 districts of the 30 districts were declared drought-affected by the Karnataka government in 2011-12, and 26 in 2012-13. In 2013-14, the number was at 22 and in 2014-15 nine districts faced drought.

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