India Intelligence Report

River Water Generates Inter-District Feud


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 Committee’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.

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