Bantwal: Countdown has begun to store more water starting December 2016 in the newly built Thumbay vented dam at a cost of Rs 75 crores by the Dakshina Kannada District Administration. This move has opened a Pandora’s Box and a cold war has developed between the district administration and the affected people, mainly farmers.
Reports suggest that in the first phase, 5-feet water will be stored though the dam height is increased by 12-feet. This move has given rise to fears among people in surrounding areas of the dam as 47 acres of agricultural land will get submerged.
Considering the acute water shortage Mangaluru city faced last summer, the district administration has become proactive to ensure such a dangerous situation does not recur. Poor planning threw the entire administration machinery out of gear and the lacunae associated with handling problems by the ruling class were thoroughly exposed in a city which prides in knowledge. Every Mangalurean is aware of the hardship one went through and if the district administration fails to deliver during next summer, it will have an indirect impact on the elected representatives seeking re-election too.
In these circumstances, higher storage in the vented dam has become imperative. But the farmers affected are posing a hurdle as they want the compensation to be paid to all affected families before higher water storage is implemented. The affected people have filed a petition in this regard in the state High Court seeking justice.
To tide over the crisis and to find a suitable solution, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Dakshina Kananda had arranged a meeting on November 15 at his office. In the meeting Bantwal Tahsildar, Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) commissioner, survey department officials and representatives of the affected took part. Farmer representatives including Subramanya Bhat, N K Idinabba, Manohar Shetty, Sudesh Maiya, Shrisdhar Shetty appraised DC K J Jagadeesh on the fall out if the water storage limit is increased by 5-feet.
In the meeting, the DC had conveyed to the farmer representatives that the district administration has plans to store more water in the vented dam, starting December 2016. The increased storage will happen only after paying compensation to all affected families, DC had assured in that meeting.
The representatives had sought details on the list of farmers who are likely to lose their valuable agriculture land, the likely compensation amount district administration intends to offer to the affected ones and the relevant survey numbers, but the district administration officials kept mum that time. Later they asked the Bantwal Tahsildar and survey officials to provide relevant information to clear their doubts in order to settle the issue amicably. To their misfortune, none of the officials seems to be aware of anything on this critical issue.
The rule clearly states that survey has to be conducted in extra area in relation to the actual storage level. (for example if the dam height is increased by 5-feet, the survey has to conducted for 6-feet and the areas which is are likely to be submerged for 6-feet storage have to be demarcated).The reason behind this is to ensure that the additional water flow and continuous dampness does not result in collapse of houses in nearby areas.
But the survey has been conducted keeping in view the actual increased storage of 5-feet. Hence, the farmers are demanding that more than 4 feet water should not be stored in the dam.
The farmers are disturbed by the move of the district administration which went ahead with an additional survey on November 17 in and around Sajipa Munnur village after the meeting which was in violation of assurances given by the DC during the earlier meeting on November 15.
Now, the farmers are worried whether the ‘compensation talk’ is equivalent to a ‘dangling apple’ out of their reach!
Affected farmers rely on High Court
If the district administration fails to address these issues, the agitation on Nethravathi river water storage near Thumbay may intensify. The delay in action on part of the administration might worsen the water supply situation in the city in the near future.
The affected farmers in their petition had asked the HC to stay the district administration’s move to go ahead with the additional storage without paying compensation. The HC in response had issued notices to all stake holders including DC, MCC Commissioner, area Tahsildar, Mangaluru mayor, water supply and sewage department officials and others. But none have bothered to reply to the notice within the stipulated 7-day period. Now the farmers have planned to serve an additional notice through the apex court against the unilateral decision of the district administration to go ahead with storing more water without paying compensation to them.