By P.T. Bopanna

Karnataka has committed grave injustice to Kodagu in the utilization of the Cauvery river water, though Kodagu is the birthplace of the Cauvery.  

Prior to complaining against Tamil Nadu, Karnataka has to ensure that it does not cause injustice to the people in its own backyard.   

It is estimated that out of the 790 TMC total yield of water in the Cauvery basin, the yield from Kodagu alone is 400 TMC.

Karnataka is treating Kodagu like a colony because Kodagu lost much of its political clout after the erstwhile Coorg State merged with Karnataka following the linguistic re-organisation of the States in 1956.

The successive Karnataka governments have not only meted out injustice to Kodagu in the allocation of water for irrigation, but also denied funds for drinking water schemes to towns in Kodagu, including Madikeri, the district headquarters of Kodagu. This is nothing but a cruel joke played on the people of Kodagu for merging with Karnataka after being an independent State.

The Rs 230-crore Harangi project has been conceived for the benefit of politically powerful Mysore and Hassan districts. Though the Harangi Dam is in Kodagu and the major catchment area of the Cauvery is also in Kodagu, the irrigation potential from the project for Kodagu is a measly 607 hectares, out of the 54,591 hectares of total irrigation potential.

What is worse is the fact that 1,909 hectares involving 13 villages in Kodagu have been submerged due to the construction of the Harangi Dam (in picture) near Hulugunda village in Somwarpet taluk, eight km from Kushalanagar.  

The irony of it all is that Karnataka has been pleading before the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal that injustice had been done to the state in the allocation of Cauvery water (implying that Tamil Nadu had been given higher allocation under the 1924 Agreement).

The Harangi project plans utilization of 18 TMC, whereas the share of Kodagu district is only 0.800 TMC of water through a lift irrigation scheme.

The taluks to be benefited from the Harangi project are Hunsur, K.R. Nagar and Periyapatna in Mysore district and Arakalgudu in Hassan district.

Being the main catchment area of the Cauvery, Kodagu has to bear the brunt of floods during the monsoon with several areas getting marooned and damages being caused to the roads and communication. The State government should build new bridges to ensure that roads were not submerged during the monsoon, especially in and around Napokulu in Madikeri taluk.

During 1972-73, when the Karnataka government planned to build the Kambadakada irrigation project across the Cauvery, an agitation broke out in Kodagu. The government buckled under pressure after Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa took up the issue with the policy-makers and explained to them the environmental dangers.  

The Karnataka government is keen to build a major hydel project across the east-flowing Barapole river in Kodagu, which would lead to the submersion of a large area, including coffee plantations in southern Kodagu, and cause major damage to the ecology of the region.

Instead of building lift irrigation and check dams in Kodagu to create irrigation potential in the district, the Karnataka government through the state-owned Cauvery Niravari Nigama has spent money on the renovation of the Bhagamandala and Talacauvery temples. The joke doing the rounds in Kodagu is that the people in the district have to merely be satisfied with the holy water (theertha) surging out of the Talacauvery pond during the annual Kaveri Sankramana festival.

Source: Rise and Fall of the Coorg State by P.T. Bopanna, Rolling Stone Publications, 2009. Paperback copy available on Amazon:

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