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Water woes: No Cauvery water to TN now, says DKS, govt nod needed for borewells in B'luru

Bengaluru, Mar 11 (PTI) With Karnataka facing its worst drought in about four decades that has affected the capital city, the government on Monday announced restrictions on drilling of borewells in the metropolis and categorically stated water from Cauvery river will not be released to neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Bengaluru, Mar 11 (PTI) With Karnataka facing its worst drought in about four decades that has affected the capital city, the government on Monday announced restrictions on drilling of borewells in the metropolis and categorically stated water from Cauvery river will not be released to neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar told reporters the State had not witnessed such a severe drought in the past three-four decades, and that the next two months are 'very much important.' He claimed the situation was not as grave as being projected by the opposition BJP.

Amid the crisis, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) said it will take legal action against those drilling unauthorised borewells within the city limits, following up on an earlier order that banned the usage of potable water for non-essential purposes in Bengaluru and warning of penalising the violators with a fine of Rs 5,000.

From March 15 onwards, prior online approval has to be sought for digging borewells, the BWSSB said.

Shivakumar also asserted there is no question of releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu at any cost now.

'We are not fools in this government to release water (to Tamil Nadu),' added Shivakumar, also the State Congress chief, even as the BJP had attacked the Congress with being keen to protect the interests of the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu. Congress and DMK are allies.

Further, the situation is not as grave as is being projected by the BJP, he said and urged the opposition party to ensure clearance from the Centre for Mekedatu, Mahadayi and other water projects of the state.

Responding to a reporter's question, he said it was not his job to ask people to work from home (in the wake of the water crisis), and such a situation has not arisen yet. 'It is only a blowup.' The government is committed to providing water to citizens of Bengaluru at any cost. 'People may have to wait for a few hours for water to reach them,' he said.

The administration is making all efforts to manage the crisis and supply water to the citizens, he said, adding, steps have been taken to control the water 'mafia' in the city.

'In the last 30-40 years we had not seen such drought; though there was drought earlier we had never declared such a large number of taluks as drought-affected,' Shivakumar said.

The deputy CM, also in-charge of Bengaluru development, said wherever Cauvery river water has to be supplied in the city, it is being done, but out of 13,900-odd borewells in Bengaluru, nearly 7,000 have become defunct.

'So to control the situation, we have arranged for tankers to supply water. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) are making all efforts in this regard,' he added.

Karnataka has declared drought in 223 out of 240 taluks, out of which 196 are categorised as severely affected.

Alleging that the opposition (BJP-JD(S) combine) was trying to indulge in politics over the issue, Shivakumar said the administration has on its part made efforts to control the water mafia, and provide water by taking it from private borewells, and also rates have been fixed based on distance travelled by the water tankers.

Stating that the next two months are 'very much important', Shivakumar, who is also the Water Resources Minister, said priority is to ensure that there is no wastage of the precious resource.

'(By implementing) Cauvery fifth stage (project) -- we will make all efforts to provide Cauvery water to 110 villages (around Bengaluru) at the earliest by May last week,' he said.

To control the water 'mafia', more than 1,500 private water tankers have registered so far and time has been extended for others also to register till March 15, Shivakumar further said. Police, Regional Transport Office (RTO), BBMP and BWSSB will monitor it and there will be a board with registration number on tankers.

'Operating illegally and charging exorbitantly Rs 5,000 or 6,000 (per tanker of water)--such things are going on. To control this, price has been fixed based on the distance travelled,' he noted.

Pointing out that in areas or taluks bordering Bengaluru like Hoskote, Kanakapura, Ramanagara, Anekal and Channapatna, the water table has improved, thanks to tank filling projects that were undertaken, he said, 'we have made an agreement with farmers there to draw water. We will also give water for industries, also for construction. We don't want their activities to stop.' Amid criticism and protests against the government over allegations that Cauvery water was being released from Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam to Tamil Nadu, he clarified that the discharge was meant for Bengaluru, and not for the neighbouring state.

'There is no question of releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu now at any cost, we have not left (released)....How much water flows to Tamil Nadu, there is an account for it. Even if water is released today it will take four days to reach there,' Shivakumar said.

The 'Raitha Hitarakshana Samiti' had staged a protest in the district headquarters town of Mandya on Sunday alleging water was being released from KRS dam to Tamil Nadu, amid drought and water crisis in many parts of the state.

BJP too had attacked the Congress government alleging that it was keen to protect the interest of DMK, the party's alliance partner in Tamil Nadu, at the cost of Karnataka's farmers and citizens. It targeted the Siddaramaiah administration for allegedly releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

Shivakumar clarified that some water was discharged from KRS dam to replenish the Shiva Balancing Reservoir at Malavalli from where it is pumped to Bengaluru. PTI AMP KSU RS KH SA

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