Home/ Politics / Policy/  Bengaluru makes a splash with Cauvery water as farmers in nearby villages suffer

Malur: Malur, about 30 kilometres from Bengaluru’s eastern edge, is a town whose social fabric is changing. Many farmers from villages around the town—like 36-year-old Manjunath—would rather farm but cannot because their borewells have run dry. Manjunath now travels to Bengaluru on a train that is packed like sardines. He works as a daily-wage labourer in Bengaluru.

Some 80km northwest from Manjunath’s arid village of Chankal, on the other side of Bengaluru, is the town of Hesaraghatta. This town houses a Central government agricultural research institute, which is forever digging borewells in the hope of finding water for its agricultural produce spread across 640 acres.

Bengaluru gets 900 million litres a day from the Cauvery river, which in itself is a travesty of justice because the city gets almost all of the 20% of the state’s share of water that the Cauvery Disputes Tribunal said ought to be reserved for the entire urban areas of Karnataka.

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“If there were water (here) I might have been growing silkworm feed, potatoes, carrots," said Manjunath, who along with his four brothers owns an acre of farmland in Chankal.

Manjunath’s is not an isolated instance. Srinivas, 50, has 3.75 acres of land but no water. His borewells, too, have run dry.

“Male nodithre ingade, keregallale neerilla, borewell gallali neerell barthadhe?" said Srinivas, an auto driver in Malur. (The rains are like this (scant). There is no water in the lakes. How will there be water in the borewells?)

Srinivas tends to his family’s four acres of land, where he has planted ragi, mulberry and jowar (a type of millet). His borewells have run dry and he is left to the nature’s mercy. But the rains have failed and the ragi plants will be fodder for his three cows, Srinivas said.

It is not much different at the opposite end of Bengaluru. The Indian Institute of Horticultural research does not have access to any water from the Cauvery river.

“The decision to term a borewell as successful or otherwise is subjective and depends on functional utility. A domestic borewell meeting household needs is termed successful even if the yield is about 1,000 litres per day," said R. Dinesh, director of Indian Council for Agricultural Research-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research.

“An irrigation borewell, which may have to be operated for longer duration, is termed successful when the yield is higher and economical for exploitation (pumping). Many a times, a successful borewell goes dry within no time either due to over exploitation or due to lack of adequate ground water recharge," he said in response to e-mailed questions.

“The question to ask is, how have we been able to successfully empty it (the groundwater). What did we do with the water?" said S. Vishwanath, a water expert and an advisor for Arghyam, a foundation that works on water issues. “Because we got free electricity and the farmers used the water indiscriminately," he added.

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Updated: 12 Dec 2016, 08:10 PM IST
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