Drought's cause has deep roots

Sankar C.G.




Even before the first rays of the rising sun make the streets busy, Jagalur lake (the largest lake in the taluk about 500 hectare) side become drifted up with the vibrant sounds of people, animals, birds and the innocent murmur of moving water, that evokes the feeling of a sweet atmosphere where it reaches its height of unity with nature.  All people being there are engaged in swimming, bathing, washing, fishing, collecting water in their pot, channelizing water to their fields, all seems like children playing in the lap of a Mother Lake.  The scene will be extended till late night.  Lake is like a God for everyone in the taluk.




These are memories and now you cannot experience it anywhere in the tauk. Jagalur Lake does not exist now but remains as a residue of prosperous past. But you may find lives like this.
Neelappa aged 68, a farmer who lives near Jagalur Lake. He still remembers the kind of routine he had followed in older days. Now he gets up early not to go for lake water but to get bore well water, though it is polluted with salts. The constant use of this salty water caused joint pain to him and to his cows as well. As there is no other option he walks slowly with his Cows everyday to get pure drinking water from faraway places.

“In my childhood the whole Jagalur was covered with greenery and the lakes were always making the noise of wealth. All the people were happy at that time, water was pure, people and Livestock was healthy, good crops and everything was fine then.  But now the whole system has been ruined...” said Neelappa.
He couldn’t complete his words as if emotion took over his voice.


This is Jagalur Lake the largest Lake in the taluk but now completely dried.


 Now farmers are sleeping in their houses even in day time unlike the hard work they did earlier.  Farmlands became dry lands, lakes dried completely, People are suffering from health problems and the soil is infertile. But still the hope of having a bright water filled future reflecting in their eyes.

“Jagalur Lake was rich enough to cover the water needs of the people who are living in Jagalur town. Thousands of people were using the lake for domestic and agricultural purposes. But now the lake is covered with creepers and shrubs and dried completely,” said Neelappa.

New Irrigation System in 1965

This is not the one isolated story in Jagalur. In the similar way all the 26 lakes in the taluk had died. The lakes were the back bone of Jagalur, as these lakes were rich water sources for all kinds of domestic and agricultural uses. All the people were living happily with these lakes but things turned around in 1965 with the arrival of ‘New Irrigation System’ implemented to increase the efficiency of water sources. 

“All the 26 lakes in the Taluk have been connected each other through canals. Built mini tanks, border checks, outlets and bunds,” said Choudappa NGO working for lakes in the taluk.

But the people who had been assigned for the construction were irresponsible enough to ruin the system.

“Before construction work starts, they had to discuss this with farmers, NGOs and geologists, to know more about the ground water flow and nature of the earth for placing everything in exact position. But the random constructions without consultation ruined the ecosystem and that in turn affected the ground water level gradually,” said Choudappa.

“The fund allocated for desiltation and other maintenance works were misused,” he added.

The new system caused to deposit silt (A material which automatically forms in water bodies) in mass quantity. It happened in Jagalur too, silt reached to a height of 100 feet. This prevents the flow of water to the earth as the soil lost its power to water hold water. Gradually the ground water level decreased and it reached 800 feet. It was 80 feet twenty years ago. This caused the lakes to dry and the taluk was falling into drought.


Turned to bore well

It is at that juncture people started using borewell water for their domestic and agricultural use. Almost all the population meets their water needs with borewell water. The number of borewells reached more than thousand. Borewells were very few in number 15 years ago.  
Krishnappa aged 45, from Anabur village, had been cultivating areca nut since thirty five years. He has got four bore well in his two acres of farm land.
What should I do other than digging borewell for getting water for cultivation? If someone is ready to provide us sufficient water we will stop using borewell water,” said Krishnappa.

         People are waiting for bore well water

Ground water level Decreased

The enormous number of borewells caused to pump ground water vigorously and it adversely affected the ground water level. Each time when the ground water level decreased the farmers increased the depth of borewells.
Thimmanna an aged farmer from Jamapura has been increasing the depth of his borewell every three year for getting sufficient water.
“The depth of my borewell was 250 feet fifteen years ago. I have been forced to increase the depth every three year as the current depth may not provide me with sufficient water. Now am getting water from 800 ft,” said Thimmanna.

The water level goes on decreasing every year. This is Bilichodu Lake, the only lake having little water.

Water became toxic

According to experts, for getting pure water from the earth the ground water level should be maintained in between 250 to 3, 00 ft.
If the ground water level exceed more than this limit, may lead to adulteration of water with salts like fluoride, chloride etc.
Oblesh a College student from Gollerahatti village is so upset with the polluted drinking water.

Polluted water in a canal

“Every morning when I wake up my joints get pain. I cannot even walk freely because of this joint pain. Doctors said it is because of polluted drinking water,” said Oblesh.
A study conducted by Panchayath Raj Engineering department in Jagalur in 2011 has shocking revelation. The hardness of water per liter is 1050 mg/lr, when the permissible limit is only 600 mg/lr of water. The amount of nitrate is 45 mg/liter of water, chloride 1030mg/liter of water and fluoride 2mg/per liter of water, which all are unsafe to human health.
“80% of the villagers living here are suffering from joint pain, skin allergy and the health condition of the villagers is bad because of this impure water they are consuming. The water in the taluk is not potable as it is mixed with fluoride and other salts but the people living in town are getting water from Soole Lake now,” said Jayanthi a doctor from Anabur primary health center.


Degradation of soil

Decrease in ground water level, increase in the number of borewells and the toxic water contributed more for soil degradation.
Gradually Soil has lost its nourishing capacity due to the decade long dry climate. The soil became worse for any kind of production as it was running short of nutrients.
Krishnappa a farmer from Sunkenahalli says,” I have been cultivating from thirty years but every year the production is coming down and the money that I have been spending every year for fertilizer is twice when compared to the previous year.”


                                         The degraded soil is not good for cultivation

A study conducted by ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) on a couple of samples (sand) taken from Jagalur reveals that nutrients like Sulphur and Zinc quantity in the soil is zero. Organic Carbon, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Boron too are very less in the soil.

Nutrients                 shortage in percentage

Organic carbon













Low agricultural production and farmer’s suicide

As usual the farmers in the taluk, without knowing the alarming depletion of ground water and degradation of soil, has taken loans from Grameen and society bank for cultivation. But the farmers had to commit suicide as they failed to meet their expectations.
Less production and low rain tempted the farmers to use more fertilizers that contributed more for the degradation of soil.
“The rain fall in Jagalur was very low in the last few years. Farmers have migrated due to no or less agricultural output,” said S. Maruthi, Agricultural officer.

A farmer’s wife sits desperately near the farm.

Geetha a fourth standard student from Bilichodu primary school weeps when she recalled her father’s death.
“We were very happy till my father’s death. He has taken loan from Grameen Bank for cultivation. But the fear of debt and despair had tempted him to commit suicide, as the crop was very less. My mother is now working in a farm and she earns Rs 100 per day, with that money she has to look after my family,” said Geetha.
Amidst government official’s visits and offers, farmers’ suicide became a usual incident in the taluk.
“Farmer’s suicide in Jagalur is increasing, as six cases reported in the last three months. They all have taken loan from Grameen and society bank, but the lack of good crops and fear of debt tempted them to end life,” said G Anuradha, assistant commissioner of sub division, Harapanahalli.

An aged farmer washing his tore clothes.


Unemployment and migration

Anil kumar 25 lives in Jagalur town a graduate in Botany is now planning to leave Jagalur as he couldn’t find any job so far. “I am leaving here because I want to look after my family and repay the bank loan that has been taken by my father for agricultural purpose. This place is not good for anything so I am leaving to Bangalore,” said Anil Kumar. “Every year around 200 to 300 people migrate from here,” said Assistant engineer Zilla panchayath Jagalur.

  The people are migrating to some other taluks and even to cities


Effect on live stock

Not only this, the live stock in the taluk is in a huge threat. Around twelve thousand livestock are there in the taluk and farmers are getting much revenue from this.
Manjunath, aged 38,  a farmer from Neelasandra village. He has a farm with around hundred goats but he won’t give bore well water to his livestock.
“I don’t give bore well water to my live stocks. Bore well water is polluted with salts, that may affect the health of live stock. One day some of my sheep died after drinking bore well water with constipation, “said Manjunath. 

Live Stock drinking polluted water

“My two cows died in the previous week and now the one’s leg paralyzed, “he added. 
“The bore well water is not good for live stock. The livestock in the village are in huge threat and there is a chance collective death in the coming summer season,” said S. Maruthi agricultural officer, Jagalur.
“People and livestock were unhealthy and vulnerable to diseases even in healthy winter season. In the coming summer season they will be more prone to diseases because the season itself is not good for health,” said Maruthi.
The death and diseases of Livestock is now common in village.

 Negligence and corruption

Meanwhile the state and central government was competing each other for allocating water funds for the entire state. But Jagalur included Central Karnataka received only meager amount to overcome drought.

In the last ten year 450 crores has been spent in Godavari basin rejuvenation, 6850 crore for Cauvery Valley irrigation and 300 crores to west flowing basin but mere one crore has been allocated for Central Karnataka. I am still confused about the criteria they have followed for fund allocation. It seems like more funds for less affected places and fewer funds for severely affected places.
But Jagalur was not lucky enough to receive the allocated fund. Corrupted officials and contractors joined hands here to stash away the allocated funds.

Even though the lakes were in pathetic condition, fund has been allocated since decades for the rejuvenation of the lake. But it has not been used for the same.
“Fund allocate mainly for maintenance of the lakes, desiltation, bush removal and other maintenance work. The 18 lakes comes under Minor Irrigation Department receives fund through different schemes like NABARD, RRR, AIBP, SCP and TSP, 4702, 2702, MLA fund, MP fund and so on and the remaining tanks comes under zilla panchayath were getting funds from 4702 and 2702 of state government, said Ashwanthappa Assistant Engineer Minor Irrigation Department, Davengere.

It is in the same way, 33 lakhs rupees allocated for Jagalur Lake (a lake in Jagalur known as Jagalur Lake), the largest lake (500 hectare) in the taluk, and 194 lakhs for Sunkenahalli Lake, both were in the last year. But not even a single drop of water is there in Jagalur Lake. The villagers complain about the dried lake.

“It was in 2001, some work done in the lake that too was improper. See the condition of the lake; it is like a plain ground. At least if they had done the desiltaion work, the lake would not have dried,” said Nagraj farmer who lives near the lake. 
“We don’t know what the kind of work they have done in the lake. We complained once to the central irrigation department and as a result a group of people came here for assessing the work done. They didn’t even speak with the villagers,” Said a local resident living near Sunkenahalli Lake. "The canals, check dams, perculation tanks and bunds are constructed in a rubbish way," says Thippeswami.

A farmer in the taluk shares his grievances


Constructions flout norms

According to Thippeswami,

The canal constructed in Sunkenahalli Lake is pretty Unscientifical. As per the norms of construction, the canal bed level (bottom width) should be 90 cm in the first 33.33%, 60 cm in the second 33.33% and the remaining 33.33% should be 45 cm.  But it has been constructed by giving 150 cm throughout the length of the canal. Apparently that prevents flow of water and the people living in tail end of the canal hardly receiving any water from the canal.
“Every 1.5 meter of the canal, there should be one meter slope, till the end of a canal. But not one canal in Jagalur has constructed in a standardized way.”

Sunkenahalli Lake canal which is the one among the many unscientifically built canals in the taluk.

 The improper treatment of the water bodies since decades is the reason pointed by the agricultural officer S. Maruthi as a cause for this severe water scarcity in the village. This has an adverse impact on the agricultural yield.

Thippeswami a NGO in the taluk explains about the irrigation works.  

The check dams, bunds and perculation tanks are to be constructed according to the geographical conditions like flow of ground water, earth position and so on.
Choudappa an NGO in the taluk said
“Most of the check dams and perculation tanks in the taluk are running short of water, as they were constructed it in a senseless manner which prevents the flow of water. The slope, length, width and position had to be maintained in accordance with the norms while construction, but didn’t.”


“An immediate solution is not possible in Jagalur. Educate the people about the effective use of water sources make them aware of RWH and other dry land agricultural methods. If we are on the right track definitely could bring back the taluk from this acute water scarcity,” said M V Shashirekha water Researcher from Bangalore.
“The average rain fall in the taluk is very low since two decades. Since the amount of rain is meager, only systematic and scientific approach proves to be good. Rain water harvesting has proven well in nearby places like Pavagada and Sira. The situation in these two places was worse, than Jagalur, five years ago. But now each and every house in Pavagada and Sira are having their own RWH (Rain Water Harvesting) unit,” she added.

A Rain Water Harvesting system in a house

“After making people aware of rain water harvesting and its importance, teach them these kinds of cultivation techniques.  After ensuring its effective implementation, we can expect for Upper Bhadra project to be here.  Rather than trusting completely on U.B project try to produce a good result with these measures.”

“All the lakes in the taluk have to be de silted at the earliest. It will definitely increase the water holding capacity of earth.”

“Educate the people the effective use of water. Make them aware that the increase usage of bore well water adversely affect ground water level and promote RWH unit in every houses.”

Nagraj an NGO working for lakes in the taluk says,

“In the last fifty years 35 years were in drought. But in 2002, 06 we received good rain. But we don’t have a system, like rain water harvesting, to preserve water and our soil has lost the natural capacity”

As the soil in the area is running short of nutrients, schemes like Bhoo Chethana Karyakrama, Suvarna Yojana scheme (through which government will provide a package of nutrients in accordance with the kind of nutrients the soil is running short) should have been given prior importance. The former scheme had been implemented in some villages and was very effective.

“After implementing Bhoo Chethana Karyakrama’ agricultural production has increased up to 16-20 percent. People in Jagalur are more or less illiterate and are unaware of rain water harvesting and its importance. Media are ineffective in making people aware of RWH. But media and some NGO’s are struggling hard for getting the Upper Bhadra project here. Once the UB project reached the taluk we will have water in our lakes and can charge the ground water level too” Said Maruthi, agricultural officer

Drip irrigation is an effective irrigation method which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly on to the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters. It is done with the help of narrow tubes. These tubes deliver water directly to the base of the plant. Its advantages are in terms of savings of water (50-60%) of that required for flow irrigation, effective use of fertilizers, less labour and energy cost. The total cost of the scheme is being shared between Central Government, the State Government and the beneficiary either through his/her own resources or soft loan from financial institutions in the ratio of 40%, 10% and 50% respectively.

“As Jagalur is severely a drought prone area, drip irrigation will be an efficient method of irrigation which is possible with the meager amount of water available in the taluk, said Narayanappa an NGO working for agriculture from the taluk.

A farm survives on drip irrigation system at Pavagada.

In India dry land agriculture accounts for nearly 2/3rd of the total cropped area and produce half of the total value of agricultural product. This kind of cropping pattern if implemented here in Jagalur could produce better output.

Role of Media

All the solution that I have mentioned here are not possible without the active involvement of the media.
We have gone across the power the power of media in so many instances like Plachimada- Kerala, Posco-Orissa. The media celebrated these issues in a healthy way, found out solution. The people were guided by the media by making them aware of the issue completely.


   People are protesting in front of the coca cola company in Kerala.


Here also media could have played an amazing role. But till 2003 media didn’t even care about the issue in Jagalur, it is apparent in its negligence for publishing at least one article or feature about the issue to make the people aware of it.
After 2003 media woke up and has gone for Upper Bhadra project. A Horata Samithi has been formed and they all wanted Upper Bhadra project in the taluk, media passed the same message to the public as UB project is the only final solution of water scarcity in the Taluk.
The one who wake up others and show them the right direction failed to do so, but moved by some reckless idea of bringing UB project to the Taluk.
A reporter of a prominent Kannada news paper, whom I have met in the Taluk, has given a funny answer to my question about the water scarcity and the media role on it.
“Water scarcity is due to lack of rain. If rain is less water too will be less, what media have to do in that issue?”
All the other media too followed the same path.
People became stereotypical to the issue and stick completely on to the belief that UB project is the one and only solution for the issue.
I am not saying UB project is bad or not at all a solution, but rather than searching for something in far away distances, should have to try, to use what is there in the hand.  
Media was not at all a complete failure in the issue. It is only through the media outside world came to know about the issue. The media celebrated the issue by publishing each and every development of the Horata Samithi campaigns. But ideally saying media could have done something better.
Indeed they have spread a wrong perspective of the issues by sticking on to UB and Horata Samithi, than guiding the people with perfect solution.

A boy from Bilichodu Village in search of water with his bottle, the number is more of the people who are waiting for pure drinking water.