Late on Tuesday night, a group of 30 farmers from the Ujani village, located on the Maharashtra side of the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, broke down five gates of the Uma Rani barrage, which belongs to Karnataka.
The desperate farmers wanted water for drinking and domestic purposes.
“At around 11pm on Tuesday, a resident of the Barooru village, which is located on the Karnataka side of the border, in Vijayapura district, spotted water flowing from the barrage into Maharashtra. He immediately informed other villagers, who got angry and came to the police station in the middle of the night,” said Inspector Chandrashekhar of Chadachana Police Station.
By Wednesday morning, the police detained more than 30 farmers from Ujani and Chanegaon villages of Maharashtra and questioned them.
“It was then that we realised that they broke the barrage to take home some drinking water,” the Inspector said.
While the water board located in Vijayapura, which is in-charge of the maintenance of the barrage, has sent its officials to inspect the spot and fix the gates immediately, that is hardly going to fix the situation.
Bhima river runs dry
The Bhima river, which originates in Maharashtra, flows through Karnataka and Telangana where it joins river Krishna.
While most of the river’s path is situated in Maharashtra, the Karnataka government has constructed four barrages across the river, while Maharashtra owns four others along an 80km stretch.
Since the drought has hit both states, which are reeling under a massive water crisis, the Maharashtra government stopped the flow of water into two of Karnataka’s barrages in April 2016.
The condition in Maharashtra is so bad that the state is unable to sustain the water requirements of people living in the villages along the Karnataka-Maharashtra border.
‘Water wars common’
According to the Bhima River Protection Committee Chief, Panchappa Kalburgi, water wars are common amongst villagers along the border.
“Nothing is going to come of this situation if farmers are arrested. The Karnataka and Maharashtra governments must hold talks and sort out the water-sharing dispute,” Panchappa said.
“In April 2016, the Maharashtra government stopped the inflow of water into four barrages along the river – two in Karnataka and two in Maharashtra. Now, they’ve run out of water in two of their barrages. Maharashtra has been known for mismanagement of water, which has led to this situation,” he explained.
Where will the water come from?
Currently, the two barrages which hold water are on the Karnataka side of the border, and together, they hold 0.8 TMC. The dead storage of the barrage is 1.89 TMC - and the water level has already gone far below the mark.
However, unlike reservoirs, since these barrages do not require a compulsory minimum water level to sustain the dam, people are still getting some water in Karnataka.
“There is absolutely no water to share. Earlier in March, the Almatti Dam reached dead storage level and water supply to Maharashtra from the dam was stopped,” Panchappa said.
“Residents in villages from both states in the border areas of Vijayapura, Belagavi and Bagalkot have been clamouring for water for the last three years. It is the mismanagement of water by both states and unscientific methods of water supply that has resulted in this situation,” he added.