It is difficult to find water even at record depths in Kolar, Karnataka's horticulture hub
Bshashvata neero (We want a permanent source of water)!” For the past five months, Kolar, a district in Karnataka, has been reverberating with this slogan. Every day, hundreds of farmers and traders gather at College Circle in Kolar town to protest an acute shortage of water, which resulted in a 50 per cent crop loss this year in the district. Kolar is ranked highly among all the districts in the state in productivity and yield of horticultural crops. But the protest has landed on deaf ears as nobody from the state government has acknowledged it, forget about visiting the site. This forced many farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to Bengaluru.
For more than a decade, Karnataka has been overexploiting its groundwater. In 2006, Kolar’s average groundwater level was at a depth of 15.03 m. This year, from January to August, it dropped to 61.48 m. It now ranks the lowest among all districts in the state. In fact, groundwater has been overexploited in all its five talukas, leaving no scope to further tap groundwater, which meets its irrigation and domestic needs. However, this is not the first time Kolar has witnessed such scarcity. Groundwater was overexploited in all its talukas in 2011.
The eastern gateway to Karnataka, Kolar, has no perennial source of water. Although it is drained by three river basins—Palar, Ponnaiyar and Pennar—these rivers and their tributaries are small and carry water only during the rainy season. The semi-arid district receives an annual average rainfall of just 748 mm. The rainfall is also extremely erratic. While in 2005, the annual rainfall was 1,195.4 mm, in 2016 it was just 521 mm. In the absence of surface water and adequate measures to recharge water aquifers, farmers started digging bore wells in early 2000s, a practise which soon became rampant.
In just four years, from 2011 to 2015, the number of bore wells in Kolar increased by 64 per cent. Although the Central Ground Water Board says Kolar had 84,287 bore wells—the highest in the state in 2015—Holali Prakash, a farmer from Kolar taluka and one of the leaders of the protest, says that this is a conservative estimate. It could be at least 125,000, Prakash says. Like
Since June 12, the citizens of Kolar have been protesting the acute shortage of water. Groundwater in all its five talukas is overexploited