It's summer, and the village of Badal Ankalgi in Belagavi taluk in Belagavi district is in the grip of an unprecedented water crisis. And the irony is that the Malaprabha river, one of the five rivers that cut across the district, is barely a few kilometres away.
To mitigate the water crisis, the government dug 37 borewells but it hasn't helped. "We never have had such crisis. Somehow, we manage to get drinking water, but it is rationed. Each family in the village gets one or two pots of water. We are in a helpless situation," says a panchayat member on condition of anonymity.
The village with a population of 1200 relies on sugarcane farming. Since it doesn't have a natural water source within the village, farmers depend on irrigation from Malaprabha or through borewells. And the indiscriminate sinking of borewells has had a devastating impact. "Water level has depleted drastically," says Ganachari, a native of this village, who works in Animal Husbandry department. "We have to drill deeper and deeper, as much as 500-700 feet and even then it is of no use."
A few wells, which quenched the thirst of people earlier, have now gone dry. Scenes of women and children waiting with plastic pots to fill water are a common scene, and so are the fights over water. To make matters worse, even private borewells which are in the hundreds, have also now gone dry, rendering the farms totally waterless.
A few women from the village trek close to two to three kms to fetch water. "We go at least two kms to fetch drinking water. We even complained to our panchayat members, but nobody wants to listen to us," says Shobha, a villager.
Another villager Neelavva Aralikatti says they even locked the panchayat office for not doing anything about the problem. "Our cattle are suffering without water," she says.
Panchayat Development Officer Shivananda Mastannavar says the water shortage occurs only during summer. Mastannavar says the MLA has been briefed about the problem. "The problem is due to a damaged water supply pipeline. The supply will be restored after it is repaired," he says.
Upset over the inaction of the government, villagers even staged a protest. The village lies in a semi-arid region and had never faced water crisis earlier.