Maharashtra blocks flow of Krishna river to Karnataka at Rajapura barrage, says will open gates on 1 June

The Sangli district administration conveyed to the Belagavi district administration that they are bound to release water only from 1 June.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published May 30, 2024 | 4:00 PMUpdatedMay 30, 2024 | 4:05 PM

Rajapur Barrage, built over the Krishna River, is overflowing for the last few days in Maharashtra.

Despite the Rajapura barrage in the Krishna river in Maharashtra overflowing due to the pre-monsoon rains, the river remains dry in neighbouring Karnataka due to the closure of the barrage gates, stopping the natural flow of the river.

This move has irked villagers residing in the Krishna River basin in Karnataka as the drought situation remains grim in parts of Belagavi, Bagalkot and Vijayapura.

The Belagavi and Vijayapura District Administrations are still depending on tankers and private borewells to supply drinking water in the severely affected areas. Bagalkot is also dependent on private borewells.

It may also be noted that 34 out of 37 talukas in these three districts have been declared drought-hit by the Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government in 2023.

Amidst the people in Karnataka criticising the Maharashtra government for blocking the natural flow of the river at Rajapur barrage, the local district administration conveyed that they are bound to open crest gates and release water to the river only from 1 June.

However, following a request by some officials of the Belagavi district administration a few gates were opened unofficially, but it is not enough to keep away the drought in Karnataka.

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Maharashtra decides not to release water

Located in Jath taluka of the Sangli district in Maharashtra, the Rajapura barrage — with a water storage capacity of just over 0.5 tmc — marks the entry point of the Krishna river into Karnataka.

Last week, when the catchment areas in Krishna river received moderate rainfall, the barrage reached its full capacity.

The water was overflowing from the crest gates to the river. On average, around 2,500 cusecs of water was released from this barrage until it was shut.

However, the Maharashtra government has reportedly directed the Sangli District Administration to shut all the crest gates of the barrage, resulting in the stoppage of natural river flow to the Krishna river on 26 May.

The neighbouring state stationed the police and water resources officials to ensure that water is not released to Karnataka.

This move by the Maharashtra government irked the people residing in Karnataka as this resulted in an increased water crisis among them, who are already battling severe drought.

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People object to Maharashtra’s move

People of Karnataka, especially in Belagavi objected to the inhumane move by the Maharashtra administration and expressed anger over it since the Krishna River is a lifeline of Belagavi, Vijayapura and Bagalkot.

It is the only source of water in most of the areas in these three districts. Also, the region did not receive enough pre-monsoon rains, further mounting their worries.

The Karnataka government announced 13 out of 15 talukas in Belagavi, 12 out of 13 talukas in Vijayapura and all nine talukas in Bagalkot as drought-affected areas.

Strongly objecting to the neighbouring state government’s decision to shut the crest gates of Rajapur barrage, Belagavi District Kannada Organisations Action Committee President Ashok Chandaragi told South First: “Rajapur barrage has reached its full capacity and is overflowing. The Maharashtra government is attempting to curtail the water flow to Karnataka.”

“With this, it is continuing its fight over the water dispute with Karnataka. It is to be noted that the villages and towns in the Krishna river basin are reeling under severe difficulty in carrying out agricultural activities in the pre-monsoon period due to lack of water. In few areas drinking water issues also exist,” Chandaragi pointed out.

“Maharashtra used to release water from its Koyna and Varna water reservoirs whenever there was a drinking water crisis during summer in Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Kalaburagi and Raichur districts,” he said.

“However, the neighbouring state stopped the water supply in 2016 as it is demanding Karnataka to agree to the water exchange treaty and bear the project cost. The Karnataka government is not happy with the conditions in the proposal,” he added.

“In 2019, the heavy rainfalls in Maharashtra led to flooding in the Krishna basin in Karnataka as the neighbouring state discharged over 8 lakh tmc of water from their reservoirs. This led our state to incur ₹35,000 crore revenue loss in 2019,” he pointed out.

“Now, they have shut down the crest gates at Rajapur barrage. If Maharashtra receives heavy rains like that of 2019, there are high chances of flooding here. Then, Maharashtra should be held responsible. Hence, the Karnataka government must wake up from its deep slumber and caution its counterpart,” Chandaragi said.

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Maharashtra to release water from 1 June

Amidst the water crisis in Karnataka, the Sangli district administration is said to have conveyed to the Belagavi district administration that they are bound to release only from 1 June.

After several people raised objections over the closure of crest gates at Rajapur barrage, the Belagavi Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil spoke to Sangli Deputy Commissioner Raja Dayanidhi over the matter.

On anonymity, a higher official of the Belagavi District Administration told South First: “If the rain is moderate then Maharashtra will discharge water to Karnataka only from 1 June. On our request, some crest gates have been opened to release water to the Krishna river.”

“It has eased the lives of a few areas in the Krishna River basin. However, we are still supplying drinking water through tankers in some areas and in other areas, where there is water scarcity, dependent on private borewells.”

“Though the district has received a good couple of spells, it has not helped revive the groundwater table or other sources. We are hopeful that they will discharge water from 1 June. Even the higher officials at the Karnataka government have spoken with their counterparts in Maharashtra. We are waiting for the positive response,” added the official.

It may also be noted that the Siddaramaiah had written a letter to his Maharashtra counterpart Eknath Shinde requesting the release of 2 tmc to 3 tmc of water to Karnataka, citing severe drought in the state.

A BJP delegation led by Chikkodi MP Annasaheb Jolle had also met Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis regarding the matter. However, Maharashtra did not respond to the request of Karnataka.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)