Bengaluru: The Rs 5,300 crore financial assistance announced to the long-pending Upper Bhadra Project in the 2023 Union Budget provides some leverage to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for claiming credit in poll-bound Karnataka, where it is struggling to gain traction.
“In the drought prone central region of Karnataka, central assistance of Rs 5,300 crore will be given to Upper Bhadra Project to provide sustainable micro irrigation and filling up of surface tanks for drinking water,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in budget speech Wednesday.
Though Karnataka is one of India’s most industrious states, it is also home to some of the most arid regions in the country, allowing water to be used as an effective tool for political gains.
Water evokes strong emotions in Karnataka as river disputes like Mahadayi, Cauvery and Krishna among others have been effective for mobilising support even though there is little evidence to show that it can have any major impact at the ballot box.
With barely five months to go for the elections, the Basavaraj Bommai-led government’s seemingly shaky position has cast uncertainty over the BJP’s chances of retaining the only Southern state where it is in power.
The Centre’s announcement was welcomed by the Karnataka government, with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sitharaman.
“On behalf of the whole of Karnataka, thanks to the Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman and the Union Government led by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi for announcing a grant of Rs 5,300 crore for the Bhadra Upper Bank Project in this year’s Union Budget,” the CM’s official Twitter handle read.
Others who welcomed the announcement include Water Resources Minister Govind Karjol and Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar.
“In Karnataka’s irrigation sector…75 years after Independence, the union government has announced the Upper Bhadra Project as a national project and has given a Rs 5,300 crore grant. This will be useful for us to provide water to drought-prone regions and its people. In history, no other state has been given so much money by converting a project as a national project,” Karjol said in a video statement.
The opposition parties — Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), — have been tightening the screws on the BJP where Bommai has struggling to gain any momentum ahead of the elections as his government face allegations of corruption, mismanagement, lack of development or welfare schemes that has put the BJP on the backfoot.
A major lift irrigation scheme, the Upper Bhadra Project is under implementation in the central districts of Karnataka. It envisages lifting up to 17.40 thousand million cubic (TMC) of water in first stage from Tunga to Bhadra and lifting 29.90 TMC of water in second stage from Bhadra to Tunnel near Ajjampura, in Tungabhadra sub-basin of Krishna basin, according to official information on the project.
More importantly, an extent of over 2.25 lakh hectares will be irrigated by micro irrigation in Karnataka’s drought-prone districts of Chikkamagaluru, Chitradurga, Tumkuru and Davangere.
In 2020, the Karnataka government has accorded administrative approval to the re-revised detailed project report (DPR) amounting to Rs 21,473.67 crore (at 2018-19 price level).
In 2021, the Union Jal Shakti Ministry gave its nod to grant a national tag to Upper Bhadra Project with an estimated investment of Rs 16,125 crore. This was after the Central Water Commission had approved the status for the project.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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