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Tale 8.2

Malaprabha Command Area

  Exiting Command Area (ha) Potential
Malaprabha RBC 21353 72123
Malaprabha LBC 18304 53134
Kolachi RBC 5667 5667

The soils in the command area are black cotton soils, which have high water retention capacity and are prone to waterloggin, Intensive irrigation of black cotton soils has been known to be prescription for creating wastelands. While irrigation has bet viewed as a means to improve land productivity, in cases like if Malaprabha command area, it has led to the destruction of productivity.

Further, the shift from rainfed food crops to an irrigated cash crop like cotton was expected to improve the prosperity of farmer However, it led to indebtedness as well as loss of fertile fan. through waterlogging.

To utilise the irrigation waters, farmers began to cultivate 'Varalaxmi' cotton which was initially sold at Rs. 1,000 per quintal. Farmers took loans from banks to develop land, purchase seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The total loan taken by the farmers increased from Rs. 50 lakhs in 1974 to over Rs. 5.5 crores by 1980. The prices of chemical fertilisers increased from Rs. 75 to Rs. 103 per bag. The cost of the Varalaxmi seed increased from Rs. 60 to Rs. 170 per kg. In the meantime the price of cotton crashed from Rs. 1,000 per quintal in 1974 to Rs. 350 per quintal in 1980.

While farmers were caught in the trap of unfulfilled commercial promise, banks demanded repayments of loans, and the irrigation authorities demanded a development tax known as betterment levy of Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,600 per acre. The water tax was raised from Rs. 18 to Rs. 30 per acre for jowar, Rs. 18 to Rs. 50 per acre for Varalaxmi. A tax of Rs. 10 per acre was fixed even if water was not utilised. For the farmers, this amounted to gross injustice, since they had not benefited from the irrigation project. In addition, the compensation for acquiring land for the dam and canals had not been paid to 75 per cent of the farmers even after seven to eight years.

The farmers therefore organised themselves as the Malaprabha Niravari Pradesh Ryota Samvya Samithi' (Co-ordination Committee of Farmers of Malaprabha Ittihsyrf Area) in March 1980. When the local authorities did not pay heed to the farmers' demands, they launched a non-cooperation movement for nonpayment of taxes. The authorities responded by refusing to issue the certificates required by the farmers' children in order to in schools and colleges. On 19 June, the farmers went on a hunger strike in front of the Tebsildar's office in Naragund town. On 30 June, 10,()00 farmers collected to support those on hunger strike. On 7 July, a massive rally was organised in Navalgund, and the farmers went on a hunger strike. Seeing that no response was forthcoming from the authorities, the farmers organised a 'bunch' on 21 July. When 5,000 to 6,000 farmers had gathered in Navalgund, their tractors were damaged and the rally was stoned. The protest then took a violent turn. The angry farmers seized the irrigation office department, burnt down one truck and fifteen jeeps. The police in turn opened fire and a young boy, Basappa Shivappa of Algavadi, was killed on the spot.

In Naragund town, the police opened fire at a procession of 10,000 people, shooting one youth. The protesting farmers responded by beating a police officer and a constable to death.

The protests rapidly spread to Ghataprabha, Tungabhadra, and other parts of Karnataka. During the protests thousands of farmers were arrested and forty were killed. Finally, the government had to put a moratorium on the collection of water taxes.and the betterment levy. According to a rough estimate, the concessions granted to farmers to end the Malaprabha agitation amounted to Rs. 85 crores.

However, the high costs of irrigation in the Malaprabha project have been forgotten. No lessons have been drawn for planning water projects, and bureaucrats, technocrats and politicians continue-to get carried away by the euphoria for large dams and intensive irrigation projects.

The creation of waterlogged wasteland through intensive irrigation is not specific to the Malaprabha command area. Compared to other projects in the Krishna basin, waterlogging, salinity and alkalinity are most serious in the Tungabhadra project. Nearly 1,500 hectares of land is likely to become waterlogged under the left bank canal. In the right bank canal 6,000 hectares have been affected by waterlogging. Under the right bank high level canal 12,000 hectares have been affected by waterlogging. In all, 19,500 hectares have been destroyed by waterlogging in the Tungabhadra project within an irrigation period of thirty-five years.

In the Bhadra project, of 1,24,392 hectares irrigated, 7,900 hectares have been devastated by waterlogging. In the Malaprabha project, of the total potential of 2,12,086 hectares, only 12,186 hectares have been actually irrigated. Of this irrigated area, 50 per cent has been waterlogged. In the Ghataprabha project, where a higher average has been irrigated than what was actually planned, out of 3,58,542 hectares irrigated, 19,948 hectares have been devastated by waterlogging.

In Andhra Pradesh, under the Nagarjunasagar project (NSP) the groundwater level has risen alarmingly within ten years, thereby indicating a trend towards waterlogging. In Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Irrigation Commission claims that 28,000 hectares of land have been affected by waterlogging in the Deccan Canals, i.e., Nira and Mutha Canals. The irrigation commission of 1976 had estimated the total waterlogged area in the basin at 7,828 hectares (6,583 hectares in Karnataka and 1,245 hectares in Maharashtra) and 15,502 hectares affected by salinity. At present 4,45,985 hectares have been affected by salinity.

Waterlogging is ecologically linked to large dams because large darns involve the transport of huge quantities of water for intensive irrigation. In fact, the primary rationale given in defence of large dams is to induce a shift from protective irrigation, which is ensured by indigenous irrigation systems, to intensive irrigation for commercial crops. The inevitable ecological impact of overuse of water for irrigation is a build up of water beyond the drainage capacity of the ecosystem. The need for artificial drainage systems arises because the natural drainage processes of the local ecosystem are violated. Waterlogging is thus a symptom of the conflict between water use in the commerciaVmarket economy, and water use for the maintenance of the water cycle including a balance between water entering an ecosystem and water leaving it. By violating the ecological laws of water flow, large dams lead to ecological destruction on the one hand and political conflict on the other.

River Diversions and Regional Conflicts Over Water: The Case of the Telugu Ganga Canal

Large dams are constructed for allowing major diversions of water from the natural drainage flow of the river. These diversions result in a major change in the distribution patterns of water in a basin, especially when they involve inter-basin transfers. They therefore generate new conflicts over the distribution of water between different regions. Regional conflicts become inter-state conflicts, and are rapidly enmeshed in inter-state and centre-state politics.

The Telugu Ganga Canal, which takes off from the Srisailam Dam, is probably the most conflict-ridden river diversion project in contemporary India.

Krishna is the second largest river of peninsular India. Its catchment lies in the Western Ghats and it flows east through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Krishna is an inter-state river, and conflicts have arisen between the co-riparian states over the allocation of its waters to their respective territories for purposes of development.

The Krishna basin like other regions of India had indigenous irrigation works such as tanks, wells and anicuts. There were nearly 27,000 small tanks and diversions on the Krishna river system, mostly in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. To these were added new canals during the colonial period for commercial agriculture. These were:

  1. The Krishna Delta Canals built in 1855.
  2. The Nira Canals in Maharashtra constructed in I885 irrigating about 150,000 acres.
  3. The Kurnool Cuddapah Canal in Andhra Pradesh built in 1886, irrigating 100,000 acres.

The majority of the area irrigated by the Krishna Delta Canals and Kurnool Cuddapah Canal (1.11 million acres) lies outside the basin of the Krishna. In 1951, the status of the diversion of Krishna waters was as follows: 411.4 TMCF of water was diverted annually for the irrigation of 2,302,377 acres. Of this 290.1 TMCF was used by Andhra Pradesh, 430 TMCF by Maharashtra, and 78.3 TMCF by Karnataka.

After independence, the large-scale diversion of river waters increased. In July 1951 the Planning Commission convened an inter-state conference to discuss the utilisation of Krishna waters. The dependable annual flow in the Krishna basin based on the recorded gaugings at Vijayawada was agreed at 1,715 TMCF so the balance of flow for new projects remained 970.5 TMCF which was rounded off to 1,000 TMCF and allocations were made between the different states as follows:

Bombay 240 TMCF
Hydcrabad 280 TMCF
Mysore 10 TMCF
Madras 470 TMCF

For the balance flow in excess of 1,000 TMCF, if any, the allocation for the above states was in the ratio 30:30:1:39. The state of Bombay was allowed to divert the waters to the west across the Western Ghats for the hydro-electric project at Koyna up to a limit of 67.5 TMCF. The agreement provided for a review of the allocations after twenty years. In 1953, states were; reorganised on a linguistic basis, Madras was divided into Andhra and Madras. In 1956 the state of Andhra Pradesh was created by the merger of parts of Hyderabad and Andhra. As a result of territorial changes, the riparian states sharing the Krishna waters are Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. An inter-state conference was convened in New Delhi under the auspices of the Union Minister of Irrigation and Power on September 1960, to recast the allocations of Krishna waters made in 1981. However, efforts to reach an agreement among the states proved unsuccessful and widely divergent views were expressed by the different states. ~ three man commission headed by N.D. Gulhati was set up. The commission undertook the first ever attempt 'at a basin-wide survey of the technical implementation relevant to water resources development.'

As observed by Tripathi, the Commission in examining the river flow of both these rivers was greatly hampered by the lack of regular reliable and continuous observations of water discharge at various points in river... The Commission stated that the flow records prior to 1936 were based on formulae different from those followed after 1936. Therefore the Commission stated that it [was] not possible to determine the flow for 86 per cent dependability or for 75 per cent dependability or for any other criterion of dependability. Because of the lack of adequate data of river flow, the Commission could not give positive answers to the terms of reference as regards the availability of water supplies on the river systems.

State-wise allocation of Krishna waters was, therefore, not possible owing to the lack of scientifically observed data. The Irrigation Minister decided that adequate river data should be collected over a number of years and analysed continuously. However, tentative allocation was made for ongoing projects.

In spite of interim re-allocations, conflicts over Krishna waters continued with each state accusing the other of higher withdrawals from the river than its legitimate share. Maharashtra and Karnataka wanted a tribunal set up under Section 3 of the Interstate Water Disputes Act, 1956.

The Bachawat Tribunal was appointed in 1969 to resolve the Krishna water state conflicts. In 1973 the Bachawat Committee gave its award. The availability of water was assessed at 2,060 TMCF and on the basis of 75 per cent dependability, Andhra Pradesh was allocated 800 TMCF. The award fixed a formula for sharing both during surplus and lean years and was binding on the states until AD 2000.

Mrs. Gandhi the then Prime Minister consulted the co-riparian states to provide drinking water to Madras which had been facing severe shortages. The three states readily agreed to part with S TMCF each. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh later hailed the Krishna water supply scheme to Madras as the Telugu Ganga. The agreement was reached on 14 April 1976. On 17 October 1977, it was agreed that a 330 km long open canal would carry 15 TMCF to Madras.

While the decision to supply drinking water to Madras was agreed by all the states, conflicts arose when Andhra Pradesh decided to use the Telugu Ganga project for irrigation. The Rs. 850 crore project now envisages extension of irrigation to 5.75 lakh acres in three districts of Rayalseema-Kurnool, Cuddapah and Chittoor and one district in the Andhra region-Nellore, in addition to the supply of 15 TMCF of drinking water to Madras. Nearly 42.4 per cent of Kurnool district lies in the Krishna basin. Cuddapah and Chittoor as well as the rest of Kurnool lie in the Pennar basin. Karnataka had questioned the diversion of water outside the basin to the KWDT arguing that only in-basin needs should be considered in determining a state's equitable share, a state should be permitted to divert its share of water outside the basin. Andhra Pradesh maintained that out of basin needs are a relevant factor and that diversions outside the basin for irrigation needs only should be permitted. Using precedence from the American Law, the Bachawat Tribunal held that the diversion of Krishna water outside the basin was legal. The river basin as an integral unit was thus substituted by the state as an administrative unit. The conflicting demands and distributive patterns emerging from the integrity of the basin versus the integrity of the state ifs a major reason for inter-state conflicts between riparian states not getting fully resolved.

Another fundamental reason for the intractable nature of river conflicts arises from the rights established through the priority of Project use in time and the rights based on the priority of need in the long term. Andhra Pradesh contends that the diversion of an additional 275 TMCF of Krishna waters to feed the districts of Kurnool and Cuddapah in Rayalseema for irrigation of 2.75 lakh acres, is within the scope of the Bachawat award as the Tribunal permitted Andhra Pradesh to take advantage of the surplus flows down the river at Vijayawada. As the Bachawat Tribunal stated, 'the state of An&a Pradesh will be at liberty to use in any year the remaining water that may be flowing in the Krishna river'.

Figure 8.1 l he Srisailiam Dam and Telegu Gangs

Karnataka has objected to the Telugu Ganga irrigation scheme on the grounds that its own projects to harness Krishna waters are still incomplete and what appears to be excess, currently, will be used in the future. Karnataka has made it clear that surplus Krishna waters would not be available for the Telugu Ganga project.

Maharashtra has also opposed the Telugu Ganga project on the ground that it violates the inter-state agreement reached in October 1977. The government of Maharashtra has observed that the state has vast chronic drought affected areas. Almost 75 per cent of the Krishna basin area in Maharashtra is drought prone and the state has plans to use the Krishna water allocated to it by the Krishna Tribunal. It has, therefore, to make sure that at the time of review of the award, its legitimate claim to the surplus available water in the Krishna river is not in any way jeopardised by pre-emptive efforts to commit this surplus water to projects like the Telugu Ganga. Karnataka- and Maharashtra governments are resisting the project on the grounds that Andhra Pradesh has already used its allocation and the Telugu Ganga project would enable Andhra Pradesh to establish its right on larger volumes of water through prior utilisation. Andhra Pradesh has already invested Rs. 200 crores and has 5,000 labourers working on the construction of the canal. Of the 406 km length of the canal, 190 km pass through the reserved forests of the Nellamali Range, for which central environmental clearance has not been obtained so far. At present the work is confined to reservoirs and canals in the non-forest areas. Water for the project is to be drawn from the Srisailam Dam through the head regulator at Pothireddypadu, which has a total carrying capacity of 11,000 cusecs. The first 16 km of the canal is shared with the Srisailam right branch canal. The common canals run up to Bankacherla cross regulator where the Srisailam right branch canal and the Telugu Ganga Canal branch off to the right and left, respectively. The Telugu Ganga Canal is in fact the old Srisailam left branch canal extending into the Segileru Valley. Water to be drawn for the Telugu Ganga project is to be stored in four reservoirs at Yellgodu, Brahamasagar, Somashila and Kandaleru. At Mithakanda? near the Bankacherla regulator, a 100 feet high ridge divides the Krishna and the Pennar basins, where the water would be transferred outside the Krishna basin. The canal would pass through Kurnool and Cuddapah districts from where the water would flow into the Pennar river at

Chenumukapalli. The flow down the river would be picked up at the Somashila Dam and passed on to the Kandaleru reservoir before it reaches Madras. The construction work continues even though the controversy over the Telugu Ganga project remains unresolved.

Andhra Pradesh derives its legitimacy from two arguments. First, it claims it is using only surplus waters for the project, and the right to surplus waters had been granted to it by the Tribunal. Second, it claims that if there is scarcity, then the arid drought prone regions of Rayalseema should not be asked to sacrifice irrigation waters. Instead, Maharashtra should be asked to stop diverting large volumes of water out of the Krishna basin into the Arabian Ocean for power generation for industrial centres.

The river Krishna emerges in the Western Ghats and flows eastward down the gentle slopes. The western face of the Western Ghats falls steeply down altitudes of 1,000 to 2,000 feet, providing excellent sites for power generation. However, the water used for hydro-electricity has to be diverted out of the basin, and dropped into the sea. Currently, the power projects in Maharashtra which divert water westwards are the Tata and Koyna Hydel Projects. The former diverts 42.6 TMC and the latter diverts 67.5 TMC. Maharashtra, however, has plans to increase the use of Krishna waters for power generation as seen from the following:

Project Westward Diversion in TMC
Tata Hydel Project 45
Koyna Hydel Project (authorized) 74.8
Koyna Hydel Project (extension) 32.5
New Multi-Purpose Projects 108.1
Total 260.4

In this conflict between the demands for power generation and the demands for irrigation in drought prone areas, the Krishna Tribunal protected existing diversions while giving priority to irrigation for future use. As it stated:

In the Krishna Basin, water is a scarce commodity. Westward diversion of water for power generation seriously restricts the use of water for downstream irrigation.... Power for

Bombay and Maharashtra industry is generated at the cost of depriving the low rainfall areas on the eastern side of the water solely needed for irrigation.

The Tribunal, however, allowed the expansion of hydel projects on the condition that over a period of twenty years they would return to the existing capacity. When the next Krishna Tribunal meets in the year 2020 to review the sharing and utilisation of Krishna waters, the concepts of justice and rights as related to water will have undergone dramatic changes, as will the basin itself.

Too Many Dams Chasing Too Little Water

Water development projects in india have been based on a localised and fragmented approach to water resources which fail to take the integrity of the entire basin into account. The consequence is that plans are made beyond the limits set by the water cycle leading to ecological disruption of the water flow on the one hand and major political conflicts on the other. The disputes relating to the sharing of Krishna waters arise from this basic flaw in the approach to water development projects in the three riparian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. When the inter-state conflict over Krishna waters was referred to the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal under the chairmanship of Justice Bachawat, the Tribunal determined the 75 per cent dependable flow of 2,060 TMCF and allocated this amount to the three states as follows:

Maharashtra 560 TMCF
Karnataka 700 TMCF
Andhra Pradesh 800 TMCF

However calculations of water yields by the UNU research team, with the data base extended to 1984, show that the total availability of water at 75 per cent dependability is 2,051 TMCF.

The yield per square kilometre of catchment in the Western Ghats ranges from 0.247 TMC of the Bhadra headwaters region to 0.118 TMC of the Tunga catchment. As against this, the yields of rivers in the dry tracts are extremely poor, often less than 0,001 TMC.

While Krishna water is thus probably less than the yield calculated by the Tribunal, the states demanded far more than what is available. The states of Maharashtra and Karnataka demanded 828.3 TMCF and 1432.42 TMCF respectively for their on-going and future projects. Andhra Pradesh had put forth a total demand of 2,008.1 TMCF. Thus the total demand was 4,269.3 TMCF which is more than double the total dependable yield of the river. This total mismatch between the demand and the availability of water-is the main reason for inter-state conflicts.

Table 8.3 Demands of Karanataka (Mysore)

Sl. No. Name of Project Demand
Demand out of
Balance 75 Per-
cent Dependable
Flows (TMC)
1. Dudhganga Project 10.00 - 10,00 4.00
2. Minor Irrigation (K-1) 1.71 0.18 1.53 1.03
3. Upper Krishna Proje 442.00 103.00 339.00 125.00
4. Bijapur Lift Irrigatio Scheme 63.00 - 63.00  
5. Don Project 3.66 - 3.66  
6. Minor Irrigation (K-2) 15.93 2.47 13.46 9.16
7. Ghataprabha Project (AII Stages) 120.00 36.60 83.40 55.00
8. Sokak Canal 1.40 - 1.40 1.40
9. Weir Schemes 5.00 - 5.00  
10. Markandeya Project 4.00 - 4.00 12.00
11. Bellarynala 3.00 - 3.00  
12. Minor Irrigation (K-31 11.73 1.03 10.37 6.85
13. Malaprabha (including Left        
Bank Canal and Upper        
Malaprabha) 49.00 37.20 11.80 9.00
14. Ramthal Lifl Irrigation Scheme 10.0 - 10.0 4.50
15. Minor Irrigation (K 4) 17.58 4.57 13.01 6.07
16. Minor Irrigation (K-5) 1.39 0.()2 1.37 0.59
17. Chandrampally 1.87 1,90    
18. Bhima Lift Irrigation Scheme 31.18 - 31.18 10.00
19. Bhima Irrigation Project 37.64 - 37.64 11.00
20. Diksanga project 0.30 - 0.30 1.00
21. Amarja Project 2.27 -- 2.27 2.30


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