As Karnataka started releasing 15,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water from the Cauvery reservoir to neighbouring Tamil Nadu for 10 days, farmers in the river basin region of Mandya Wednesday expressed apprehension over the fate of their kharif crops. This came despite an assurance from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah that there will be no shortage in water for farmers in the state.
“We have started releasing water from today as per the Supreme Court’s direction,” Siddaramaiah said. Karnataka released 11,000 cusecs of water from KRS reservoir, with government officials saying 4,000 cusecs more would follow.
The Supreme Court had on September 5 directed Karnataka to release the water to Tamil Nadu to help the state tide over shortage in water supply for its samba (paddy) crop.
After complaining that its reservoirs in the Cauvery basin were only 45 per cent full because of a weak monsoon, the Congress government in Karnataka, following an all-party meeting Tuesday, decided to release the water.
Farmers and pro-Karnataka groups in Mandya and Mysuru regions, meanwhile, continued their protest over the state’s decision.
“We don’t know how the CM will keep his promise to give us water,” said Konasale Narasaraju, a farmer in Maddur region of Mandya district.
According to Narasaraju’s calculation, “there is only 57 TMC (thousand million cubic) feet of water in the four dams in the Cauvery basin”.
“Of this 57 TMC feet, nearly 9 TMC feet is dead storage and 3 TMC feet will evaporate. After the state gives water to Tamil Nadu, it will have only enough left to meet drinking water needs of the region. Farmers in the district need at least 15 TMC feet of water. How will the government manage this,” asked Narasaraju.
Following forecast for a good monsoon, farmers in Mandya had planted paddy on 30,000 hectares and sugarcane on 6,000 hectares, officials said. This was still below normal cultivation because the agriculture department had advised a wait-and-watch approach regarding water supply, said Raja Sulochana, the joint director of the agriculture department in Mandya.
“We had concerns that a water shortage could arise, so we convinced farmers to plant crops after assessing the water situation,” Sulochana said.
Dhananjaya, a farmer from Pandavapura, claimed the state had stopped release of water in the district for several days and there had been no rain either. “Farmers are worried their standing crops will dry up,” he said.
At many places in Mandya, on Wednesday farmers blocked roads with bullock carts, tractors and vans. Police were deployed at dams in the region to prevent any untoward incident —in 2002, the death of a farmer had triggered massive protests over release of water to Tamil Nadu.
With farmers in each village protesting separately, an effort is underway to unite them under the umbrella of the Cauvery Agitation Committee, headed by farmer leader and former MP G Madegowda.
According to K S Nanjunde Gowda, organising secretary of a farmers’ association in Mandya, leaders of different outfits will sit together and decide the course of action.
“Cauvery is like a mother to the people of Mandya. We will not allow anybody to steal her milk,” said Rudre Gowda, a farmer from Siddayyana Koppalu village.
K Nagaraj, another farmer, said the Karnataka government must announce compensation of Rs 50,000 for each acre of crop destroyed due to water shortage.