A crisis looms large for people of Sindgi and Indi taluks as the Bhima, considered their lifeline, has dried up in the summer sun.
People and livestock have been facing acute water scarcity, and crops are withering away. Farmers who have land near the river laid a 5-km-long pipeline to draw water to their fields, but their efforts have been in vain as the water has dried up.
“Most sugarcane farmers, like me, depend on the Bhima, but water-level has depleted to such an extent that even drilling borewells near the river is yielding no water,” laments Yamanappa Savalagi.
As many as 24 villages of Karnataka and 22 in Maharashtra, located along an 89-km stretch of the border between the two States, benefit from the Bhima. Some water has been stored at the barrage near Shiranal village, but this is reserved for supply to Solapur of Maharashtra.
In fact, of the eight barrages built across the Bhima, four are built and maintained by Maharashtra. Of these four, two are used by Maharashtra to supply drinking water to Solapur and Akkalkot. The Maharashtra government deploys security personnel to ensure the safety of their share of water.
Farmers of Karnataka complain that Maharashtra uses up most of the river water. That State did not release water to the Bhima from Ujani dam, causing them further problems, they charge.
Besides, they wonder why the Karnataka government has not taken steps to ensure the safety of its share.
For instance, Panchappa Kalburgi, president of the Bhima Nadi Neeru Horata Samiti, alleges that sand extraction is taking place along the river. The sand mafia breaches parts of barrages, allowing the water to run out and the barrage to dry up, before extracting sand from there, he claims. Holding Karnataka officials responsible for the water scarcity, Mr. Kalburgi says the government should ensure proper upkeep of the barrages, check illegal sand extraction and urge Maharashtra to release water from Ujani dam.