Karnataka’s coastal districts, known for heavy rains, are facing quite an abnormal situation this year. The State government has declared two taluks in Dakshina Kannada, seven in Uttara Kannada and all three taluks in Udupi district drought-hit.
Last year too, the coastal districts had experienced low levels of rainfall which caused severe water shortage, but the current “drought” tag is concerning. It was based on scarce south-east rainfall (October to December) during 2016 — resulting in depleting groundwater and moisture level drying water sources — that impelled the State government to tag the taluks as drought-hit.
As per the reports published by The Hindu, the average rainfall for Dakshina Kannada and Udupi are normally at 4,000 mm, and it is for the first time that the districts have been included in the list of other parched drought-hit districts in Karnataka. For instance, while Bantwal recorded 70.8 mm rainfall during this period against the normal rainfall of 213 mm, Mangaluru received 92.5 mm rain against the normal of 303 mm.
The mayor of Mangaluru and a gram panchayat member since 1974, Harinath Jogi, expressed his dismay at the current predicament by saying that never before had the undivided Dakshina Kannada (Udupi was carved out of it two decades ago) been declared drought-hit tag. “There was a flood in Mangaluru and Bantwal owing to heavy rainfall in 1974. I had joined others in distributing bread to people,” he recalled.
Environmental biologist N A Madhyastha, has attributed the destruction of forests and wetlands, and poor management of water resources as a reason for the present state of affairs in the coastal districts. Corroborating his analysis, officials in the Department of Mines and Geology admitted that there was an over-exploitation of groundwater and non-recharging of borewells. For example, in Mangaluru taluk alone, the groundwater table dropped to 18 m in January from 12.97 m during the corresponding month (January) of 2016.
“Owing to the drought-hit tag, every MLA would get a fund of Rs 60 lakh instead of Rs 40 lakh for drought works”, said Pramod Madhwaraj, Udupi MLA and Minister of State for Fisheries, Youth Services and Sports.