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The peasant struggle: unveiling the distress of water scarcity in semi-arid areas of Karnataka, India

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Anantha Kanugod Hanumanthappa
Research Scholar, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, India.

Keyword(s): Peasant struggle, groundwater, semi-arid areas, Karnataka, India
AbstractGroundwater is the main source of irrigation for majority of farmers in arid and semi-arid areas of Karnataka. With its common property nature, the overexploitation has been occurred in a large scale during recent decades. The reasons for over- exploitation are many and most of them are inter-related. This paper tries to identify factors determining over- exploitation of groundwater resource and its impact on farm economy of the households. The data used for this paper are from primary survey carried out in a semi-arid region of Karnataka, India. The methodology used for the study includes Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique to identify the farmers those who have affected by well interaction effect. Structured Interview Schedule was used to collect information from the selected farmers and focus group discussion with landless households. The study results were confirmed in consultation with the farmers of the study region as a dissemination strategy. The study results are as follows: (i) Farmers are investing substantial amounts of money on borewells. Such investments unavailable in the event of well failure. Therefore, shifting cropping pattern is taking place. (ii) Decline in water markets have severe impact on productivity and livelihood status of farmer community. This is due to non-availability of enough water to irrigate the well owner’s land. (iii) Externalities (declining water table, increasing depth, excess fluoride) arises both due to technological and legislative reasons. Added to this, small and marginal farmers are becoming victims to large farmers, who drill deeper borewell to secure water for irrigating larger holdings. As a result, resource degradation costs are disproportionately borne by these farmers. Further, these farmers remain under poverty trap. (iv) Groundwater degradation (from 350 to 1200 ft.) due to deeper drilling and high pumping capacity (average HP ranges between 6.52 and 8.56) resulted in less potential of groundwater for future needs. (v) Increase in capital cost and running cost to maintain borewell irrigation has resulted in severe ‘debt trap’. It is also due to the inequity in access to capital across sections of the society; those who do not have access to capital will be left out of resource extraction activity and will depend on informal credit in the hope of making profit by drilling borewells. But in reality, due to high rate of failure of borewells, majority of farmers are unable to repay the principle amount of loan. (vi) There is no legislation which supports sharing the groundwater resource equally. So far, groundwater is regulated through supply regulation of electricity rather than fixing the electricity charges appropriately. Although it is an appropriate decision to control groundwater degradation, it is not a sufficient condition either. Therefore, to regulate over exploitation of groundwater, proper electricity charges should be introduced with meter facility and efficient monitoring would further help to reduce the resource degradation. Social regulation should be introduced with the help of community participation. To recharge groundwater resource, traditional surface water bodies should be rejuvenated with state- community support. This helps us to manage water resources in a sustainable manner.
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