An inter-district water dispute is
generated by the proposed Upper Bhadra
Project (UBP) that seeks to dam 23
thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of
water to irrigate 250,000 acres of
land in Chittradurga and Kolar
districts at the cost of USD 450
million. The lower riparian districts
of Chickmagalur, Shimoga, and
Davaganagere are opposing this move,
as it will deny them water that they
have traditionally been used to.
The proposed UBP is only 30 kilometers
from the source of the Bhadra and has
seen varying levels of fortunes
depending on who has been power.
Karnataka has appointed a committee
led by K.C. Reddy to evaluate water
management in the state. While varying
groups are vying for their interests,
the Water Minister, who comes from the
beneficiary districts, says that he
has an open mind and will abide by the
Committeeâ€™s report.While the
Government says that 20,000 acres of
land will be submerged, non-Government
Organizations disagree and estimate
the area to be more like 50,000 acres.
Besides, the full environmental impact
is still being studied. Given the lack
of consultation process and a detailed
river water management system in
India, people whose lives are
threatened by the project are loudly
protesting the plan.
Critics say that Indian politicians are quick to imagine mega
projects of questionable logic and not thinking of
more long-lasting and cheaper options such as revival
of ancient tanks, rain water harvesting, better
farming practices, water reclamation, and education on
water conservation. Even though Karnataka had above
normal rains last year, many fear that inept
management has frittered the water away.
Seen from a broader perspective, this is a micro-level
problem of the dispute that the Southern states have
with each other or inter-nation dispute between India,
China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
India desperately needs a more comprehensive water
management policy and system.