A silver lining to the KC Valley project

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 09/10/2018 . Curious residents of surrounding areas of Lakshmi Sagara tank, looking at treated sweage water coming out of canal through Koramangala Challaghatta project ( K C Valley Project ) to improve ground water level in Kolara district. To go with Ground Zero reportage. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

Sixty-five-year-old Chowdappa is taking out his bicycle to head home for lunch in Chowdadenahalli, Kolar. With the south-west monsoon continuing well beyond its usual season, it was an opportunity for farmers like him to make the most of the extended monsoon.

He owns a one-acre farm where he grows ragi. “We grow just enough to feed our family and not for sale. We can cultivate ragi only if there is rain. We did not get much rain this year too, but the last few days have been better. There is water in the kere (lake), which has helped this time,” he said, adding that when he cannot do take up farming, he works as a daily-wage labourer.

Another monsoon has passed, and according to the IMD’s official figures for June to September, Kolar district, which had been declared drought hit seven times since 2011, had a 20% deficiency in rain this year too.

Finally, something changed this year; borewells are slowly springing back to life, and lakes are filling up, pumping up water tables despite the failure of the monsoon. And people are giving credit to the controversial KC Valley project, which pumps treated water from Bengaluru’s sewage to tanks in Kolar district.

In Bellur, 70-year-old Neerganta Ramaiah is resting under a tree with other men from the village. “There was no water in the kere for nearly 20 years. If it rains, it’s our good fortune. I have five acres, and apart from ragi, maize and avare (lub lub), I even cultivated eucalyptus on one acre because I thought something is better than nothing. Due to the project, the borewell has started working again. We know it is dirty water, but we believe the earth has its way of treating it,” he said.

Another farmer Namgyappa vehemently argues: “It is dirty water. There are no takers for it.”

M. Srinivas, whose farm is close to the Lakshmisagar lake, said the water was unfit for direct consumption. “But we were in a dire position. This project has indirectly helped rejuvenate farms and fodder for cattle,” he said, though saying it was too early to call the project a success.

Project to fill 126 tanks

C. Mruthyunjaya Swamy, secretary, Minor Irrigation Department, told The Hindu that the project, which aims to fill 126 tanks in the district, has filled 40 so far. “We have pumped 2.5 tmcft overall and the aim is to pump 5.5 tmcft in one year. The daily discharge of 310 MLD of treated water from the BWSSB is being pumped into the project, with the Lakshmisagar lake being the first discharge point. The Srinivasa Agrahara lake is the last point. Around 20 km have been covered and we have another 25 km to go,” he said.

On Monday, the State government told the High Court of Karnataka that the Indian Institute of Science has been requested to study the environmental and public health impact of the KC Valley project.

“The water was never intended for direct use. The main aim was to help increase the groundwater level, and the treated water, once it enters the earth, is purified and helps push up groundwater. We have put up multiple checks in place and pumping is stopped immediately if there is any variation,” said Mr. Swamy.

Situation upstream

But the scene is less optimistic upstream. Mahesh Kumar, 29, is tending to his marigold plants on a hot afternoon. His family also cultivates tomato, potato, brinjal, ridgegourd, and bottlegourd. Much of this is sold in Bengaluru city. Their profit margins are thin.

“For one kg beans, we are paid ₹10 to ₹15 in the market, ₹25 very rarely. Weekly once, we travel to the city in a tempo, for which we need to pay ₹100 for every 35 kg of produce. The borewells we drilled are 960 ft and 1,200 ft deep. The project has not helped those who are upstream. Due to the deficiency in rain, we leave one or two acres uncultivated,” he said.

Mr. Swamy said the project will cover the areas upstream in the second phase. “By 2021, we hope to fill all tanks of Kolar,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 11:38:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/a-silver-lining-to-the-kc-valley-project/article29956197.ece

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