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Villages get water, thanks to by-poll, but no projects in sight yet

HUBBALLI

“Earlier, we had to fight with authorities for water as the supply frequency would delay beyond 10 days. But now, we get water before we even ask,” says a visibly elated Channaveerayya P. Hiremath of Hirenarti village.

The reasons are not far to seek. The drinking water supply mechanism has suddenly improved in villages that fall under the bypoll-bound Kundagol constituency ever since elections have been announced. Mr. Hiremath knows well that this situation of bounty may not last beyond the elections, but he is a happy man for now.

However, as the campaign for the Kundagol byelection is getting hot with every passing day, matching the rise in mercury levels, a major issue concerning the region — perennial shortage of drinking water — seems to be getting lost in the cacophony of allegations and counter allegations.

Though residents of Kundagol taluk have for decades been demanding projects to provide permanent solution to the water problem, it has not been heeded to and it is not being raised as an important issue by any political party.

What is glaring in the taluk is the absence of projects to conserve and store water. Despite a relatively better rainfall last monsoon, there is little water available in any of the villages and not many farm ponds are seen storing water. This, surprisingly, is in a taluk which witnesses flash floods in Benni Halla, a stream which is estimated to have 14 tmcft to 22 tmcft water during good monsoon.

“Neither the BJP nor the Congress-JD(S) coalition partners are speaking about the water issues,” said Vikash Soppin, central committee member of the Karnataka Rashtra Samiti, which has fielded a candidate in the bypoll.

Unaware of project status

Kundagol taluk officials said they had taken temporary steps to address water woes, such as hiring private borewells. However, they are clueless about any permanent project being planned or the status of those sanctioned for the taluk. Though in the current budget, a Rs. 40-crore tank-filling project has been sanctioned for the taluk, local officials The Hindu spoke to admitted that they do not know anything about its status.

Among the few politicians to have spoken of water issue during campaign this time, former Minister H K Patil promised to work on a multi-village drinking water mega project for the whole of the constituency, on the lines of the Gadag drinking water project.

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