Bengaluru: Violent protests over the rejection of Karnataka’s interim plea for sharing the Mahadayi river water with Goa by a tribunal disrupted normal life across cities and towns in north Karnataka on Thursday.
“A shutdown was observed at Hubballi, Dharwad, Gadag, Haveri and Belagavi in the region with schools, colleges, shops and offices closed. Incidents of stone-throwing, burning of tyres and effigies and blocking of roads and highways by thousands of farmers, students and pro-Kannada activists were reported,” an official told IANS here.
The Mahaydai Water Disputes Tribunal, headed by J.N. Panchal, on Wednesday rejected the state’s petition for 7.6 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water from the river, citing various grounds, including ecological damage the project may cause.
With farmers’ associations and pro-Kannada organisations staging demonstrations and protest rallies against the verdict, additional police forces were deployed in cities and towns across the region to maintain law and order and contain the agitation.
“The shutdown affected road transport by state-run and private buses, trucks and other vehicles on the intra-state and inter-state routes. Buses to Goa across the border have been suspended till normalcy returns,” the official said.
At Navalgund in Dharwad district, police fired teargas and resorted to caning near a bus depot to disperse an angry mob from torching state-run buses parked in the bays.
Besides the ruling Congress government in the state, leaders of national and regional political parties were criticised for failing to ensure drinking water from the river to the affected region, which has been reeling under severe drought over the last two years.
The project to supply drinking water to Hubballi-Dharwad, Gadag, Bagalkot and Belagavi districts from the river through Kalsa-Banduri canals in the Malabrabha basin has remained incomplete due to standoff between the two states since a decade.
Protests were also held at Ballari, Bengaluru, Mandya, Ramanagaram against the verdict, which deprived drinking water supply to the affected cities, towns and villages of five north-west districts in the state.
As the 77km-long Mahadayi flows into Goa from Karnataka on the west coast into the Arabian Sea, the former has been objecting over sharing its water, as 52 km of its stretch is in its state and is a lifeline for its people.
“We have been trying to convince Goa over the years that our project does not affect the river flow into its state, as about 200 tmcft of water is going into the Arabian Sea every year unutilised,” the official recalled.
According to a central water commission study, of the total (197-220 tmcft) water in the river basin, the yield in the state’s catchment area is 44-53 tmcft. The state plans to use around 37 tmcft of its water for drinking water and hydel power generation.