Divided flows the Cauvery



'Only Lord Shiva can save us by giving us some rain'

Last month, 70-year-old Nanje Gowda began growing paddy on a tiny patch in his three-acre plot. His plot lies in Vaderahalli village, in the outlying areas of the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka's Mandya district, at the farthest end of an intricate canal system that criss-crosses the region carrying water from the Krishna Raja Sagar dam. Gowda had hoped to get enough water from the Cauvery by the end of the month. With no sign of water in the canals and no rains in sight, Gowda has abandoned his plans for a paddy crop this season. All he has now is a bright green patch, where he had sown paddy, surrounded by parched earth.

"Only Lord Shiva can save us this year by providing us with some rain. Nobody else can help us—not the government, not the MLA and not the irrigation department. Those who depended on the canals for their crops are already fleeing to the cities for work," he says.

Around two kilometres from Gowda's land, in Malavalli region of the basin, is a natural irrigation tank called Chotanahalli lake. Even in the worst years, the tank would have enough water to quench the thirst of the animals on the farms around. This year, there is no water in the tank.

"The government has been saying that water has been released but the flow is very slow at this end of the irrigation chain. We hope we have enough water to quench the thirst of our animals; otherwise, we will sell them off to the slaughter houses," says Siddaraju, a farmer from Chotanahalli village, who participated in protests in the Cauvery basin against the sharing of the river water with Tamil Nadu.

On the directions of the Supreme Court and the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Karnataka government released an average of 9,000 cusecs of water from September 29 to October 8 to Tamil Nadu from the Krishna Raja Sagar reservoir, which is the mainstay of irrigation and drinking water requirements in the basin.

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