Five districts of North Karnataka came to a standstill as farmers observed a strike to protest against the non-implementation of the Kalasa-Banduri project. This project would divert water from the Mahadayi river to these districts, which depend on the river for drinking water.

Karnataka and Goa have been have been fighting over the waters of the river, which originates in the southern state, for decades. On December 21, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said his state was ready to share a “reasonable and justified” amount of water from the Mahadayi river with Karnataka for its drinking water needs.

Even as the protests spread to Bengaluru on Wednesday, Goa Water Resources Minister Vinod Palyekar told ANI that the state cannot compromise on this dispute. “Our people hardly get sufficient water,” he said. “How can we give them? It is just not possible.”

In Bengaluru, hundreds of farmers attempted to march from the office of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Malleshwaram locality to Raj Bhavan, local media reported. Later, four representatives of the demonstrators were allowed to meet the governor and submit a list of their demands.

Over 500 of them from the districts of Gadag, Bagalkote, Hubballi and Dharwad have been staging demonstration outside the BJP’s office since Saturday night, The News Minute reported. “We are fed up with the BJP’s false promises,” Kurubara Shantakumar, a member of the Karnataka Farmers’ Association, said. “The BJP is in power in the Centre and it holds power in Goa. We want them to confirm that they will release the water for us.”

In Belgavi, farmers in the city of Athani took off some of their clothing items in protest. They brought the traffic on the state highway to a halt.

In the district of Gadag, several lorries were stranded on the highway while protestors attempted to lay siege at the railway station in the city of Bagalkot and were stopped by policemen. Protestors ransacked a wine shop near Basaveshwara Circle in the city as it had opened for business despite the bandh call.

The dispute

Karnataka wants to divert a meagre 7.56 tmcft water from its contribution to the Mahadayi basin to Malaprabha dam to take care of the acute water shortage of Hubballi and Dharwad and about 180 villages near the dam. After necessary approval from the water resources ministry in 2002, Karnataka announced its plans to build two barrages on Mahadayi’s tributaries, Kalasa and Banduri.

Goa, however, objected to the plan and approached the Supreme Court in the same year. Goa believes the proposed water diversion would not only affect the water needs of the people, it would also affect the sensitive ecology of the Western Ghats.