A war over water within Andhra Pradesh
At a time when Andhra Pradesh is waging a bitter war with neighbouring Karnataka over the sharing of river waters, a water dispute between farmers within the state has taken a violent turn.Updated: Jul 05, 2003 17:33 IST
At a time when Andhra Pradesh is waging a bitter war with neighbouring Karnataka over the sharing of river waters, a water dispute between farmers within the state has taken a violent turn.
At least 50 villagers were injured, two of them seriously, when farmers of backward Mahabubnagar district in the Telangana region and Kurnool district in the Rayalaseema region clashed on Friday.
Ironically, the armed farmers attacked each other in Rajoulibanda, a village along the Karnataka border in the presence of farmers and police from that state.
The clash, the second in a week, has created tension in villages surrounding the Rajoulibanda Diversion Scheme canal over the inter-state Tungabhadra river.
With an Andhra Pradesh political party fighting for a separate state of Telangana threatening to intervene, the dispute could take a turn for the worse.
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti said it would protest against injustice being done to farmers of Mahabubnagar district by farmers of Rayalaseema. Party leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao has decided to launch a walkathon along the river canal.
About 3,000 farmers of Mahabubnagar Friday gathered at the project site under the leadership of G. Bheemudu, a legislator belonging to the ruling Telugu Desam Party, and closed the canal sluice gates to prevent water supply to Kurnool.
About 1,000 farmers from Kurnool district, also led by leaders of the TDP, gathered on the other side of the river and soon the two groups, armed with clubs, sickles and knives, fought pitched battles, forcing police to fire in the air. The farmers from Kurnool returned late Friday and reopened the sluice gates.
The farmers of Mahabubnagar district argue that they get only 8 to 10 tmc (thousand million cubic) feet of water from the reservoir against their entitlement of 15.9 tmc feet due to illegal tapping by both Karnataka and Rayalaseema farmers in the upper reaches. They say if the sluice gates are not closed there will be no water in the reservoir for downstream
The canal stretches over 42 km in Karnataka and 100 km in Andhra Pradesh. It was created in 1958. A successive drought for three years and the excess withdrawal of water by farmers in upstream Karnataka has led to a crisis in the project.
TDP legislator and president of Rayalaseema Farmers' Association Byreddy Rajasekhar Reddy said farmers of Rayalaseema would not keep quiet if the flow of water was stopped.
He even began a demonstration in Kurnool on Friday to protest the attempts by Mahabubnagar farmers to close the sluice gates. He said Kurnool should get 10.5 tmc feet of water while Mahabubnagar's entitlement was only 6.5 tmc feet.
Concerned over the clashes over water within the state, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu sought to blame Karnataka for not releasing water downstream. He also ordered TDP leaders from the warring groups to exercise restraint.
First Published: Jul 05, 2003 17:33 IST