Even as Chief Minister Siddaramaiah laid the foundation stone for a controversial lift irrigation project to supply drinking water to dry regions around the state, people in the coastal district of Dakshina Kannada observed a daylong bandh in protest against diversion of a river in the region to facilitate the “Yettinahole project”.
The south Karnataka district of Chikaballapur, which is among the beneficiaries of the water lifting plan, also witnessed protests by opposition groups who called the hurried move to push ahead with the scheme as being unscientific and dictated by electoral interests ahead of Lok Sabha polls.
The lift irrigation project is intended to primarily benefit the Chikaballapur constituency, represented by senior Congress leader and Union minister Veerappa Moily and Kolar, represented by another Union minister K H Muniyappa. The project, expected to take around five years for completion, involves supplying drinking water to districts like Hassan, Bangalore Rural, Kolar and Chikaballapur by diverting water from the Netravati river in Dakshina Kannada.
At the inauguration of the project, Siddaramaiah said it is expected to bring 400 TMC of water and solve the water crisis for people living in the dry southern parts of the state. “There is no water resource near Kolar and Chikaballapur. This project is important. People of this region are afflicted by diseases due to water contaminated with fluoride and arsenic,” he said.
“The protest against the project is unnecessary as it will not affect the people of Dakshina Kannada district. I request the people to call off their protest,” Siddaramaiah added. Meanwhile, in Dakshina Kannada, political parties, business organizations, trade unions, students and teachers unions cutting across party lines and affiliations observed a daylong bandh against the implementation of the Yettinahole river project.
Interestingly, the group spearheading the agitation against the project — the Karavali Jeevanadhi Netravati Rakshana Samiti – is headed by senior Congress leader and former MLA Vijay Kumar Shetty and has the support of several local Congress leaders such as P V Mohan and M G Hegde. Incumbent Congress MLA J R Lobo, who addressed the media Monday, said he would request the state government to reconsider the project as it affected local sentiments.