Several parts of Karnataka have shut down on Saturday, in response to a call for a state-wide bandh given over the Mahadayi verdict.
Bengaluru, parts of the old Mysore region, and Mumbai-Karnataka have seen a strong response to the bandh, with just medical shops and other emergency services functioning. Other parts of Karnataka have witnessed lukewarm response or none at all to he call for a day-long shut down.
Why the bandh
Kannada groups have called for a bandh over the order of the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal on Wednesday. It rejected Karnataka’s plea asking Goa to release 7.5 tmc of water from the Mandovi river. The Tribunal, headed by JN Panchal heard arguments by counsels for the two states on Tuesday, and reserved its orders for Wednesday.
The tribunal, which gave its interim order after hearing arguments from both Karnataka and Goa, had rejected the state's plea citing various grounds including ecological damage that the project may cause.
Karnataka had filed an interim application with the Tribunal seeking 7.5tmc water to be released from the Mahadayi in Goa for the Kalasa-Banduri project.
Wednesday’s verdict is only the interim order, and not the final one, but the opposition to it is strong, especially in four north Karnataka districts where the drinking water project is to be implemented. These districts have faced a serious shortage of water, which was particularly bad during the drought in the past year. The latest round of dharnas demanding the implementation of the project, began last July, and has continued in Nargund village of Gadag district until today.
Coming just a year after that protest completed its first anniversary, the Tribunal’s order is perceived to be an injustice to the state.
Kalasa Banduri Horata Samiti president Vijay Kulkarni had earlier told The News Minute, “We will continue to struggle until the water comes.”
He said that the people of the region have been demanding that the project be implemented for the past 16 years. But since last July, the protesters have sat on an indefinite dharna in Nargund, in Gadag district. “It has now been one year and eight days, since we launched that protest.”
Reacting to the order, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said that Karnataka in its petition, asked for 7.56 tmcft for drinking purpose which should have been given priority according to National Water Policy.
Siddaramaiah had led an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention for an out of court settlement of the issue. The Karnataka Legislature had also passed a resolution seeking the Prime Minister's intervention.
Goa government had earlier rejected Karnataka's attempt for out of court settlement of the dispute, stating that the people of the state felt it was more prudent to settle the dispute through the Tribunal.
What is the project?
The Kalasa-Banduri Nala project, was first mooted during the SM Krishna government, as a solution for the drinking water crisis in the region. The people of the region have their hopes pinned on the project. The region is part of Karnataka’s arid area, which is second only to Rajasthan in water scarcity. The project has been delayed for over a decade during which the state has seen two of the worst droughts in 40 years.
Although the project is popularly called the Mahadayi project, the people of these districts are actually demanding that a quantum of water from two tributaries of the Mahadayi river – Kalasa and Banduri – be transferred to the Malaprabha river in Karnataka.
Under the project, 200 tmc of water from the two tributaries of the Mahadayi would be transferred to the Malaprabha river, which supplies water to the three districts. The project was approved in 2002, but has not made much headway.
In the 1980s, farmers in Navalgund in Dharwad district and Nargund in Gadag district launched a movement against the government, demanding drinking water supply. It had first been recommended by SR Bommai after the then chief minister Gundu Rao appointed him as the head of a committee to look into the task.
Although the state has seen all three major political parties in power – Congress, BJP and JD(S) – in various combinations since then, the project has been reduced to little more than a means to obtain political mileage and as a metaphorical stick to beat then ruling party with.
(With PTI Inputs)