By Abhijeet Gurjar

Ganeshwadi is the last village of Shirol taluka in Kolhapur district on the border between Maharashtra and Karnataka. Many farmers from Ganeshwadi and other villages in Shirol straddle between the two states with a home in Maharashtra and agricultural land in Karnataka.

As monsoon hits the western Indian state, floods regularly follow in Shirol. There has been a flood in Shirol every year, with major floods in 1914, 1989 and 2005. In 2019, the floods were at a much larger scale than before. The taluka has 55 villages, among which 43 are 90 percent flood-affected while seven villages face the maximum impact, becoming islands during floods.

For the farmers here, the impact of the flood is further aggravated by state compensation policies that differ across the border. Karnataka offers better compensation for flood victims, they say, which these farmers, with agricultural land in Karnataka, cannot benefit from as they reside in Maharashtra.

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“I lost my entire sugarcane crop from two acres of farmland to the floods. The entire field was under floodwater for more than a week which resulted in decaying and loss of crop. Now I am due with a loan of Rs 1,80,000. How will I repay this loan and get back to my normal life? The flood took everything away from me,” Appasaheb Shripal Khot, 35, rued about life after the floods that hit his district in August 2019. He has farmland in Athani Taluka, Belgaum district of Karnataka state while his house is in Ganeshwadi village, Kolhapur district in western Maharashtra.

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Appaso Shripal Khot showing documents of his residence proof, ration card from Maharashtra and 7/12 (land ownership document) from Karnataka state.

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Ravindra Appaso Belanki, 38, a resident of Ganeshwadi who lost his cash crops worth approximately Rs 300,000 (Rs 3 lakh) showing his residential address proof of Maharashtra state and 7/12 of his traditional family farm which belongs to Karnataka state. “I lost my entire crop of organic turmeric, banana and sugarcane to floods,” he said, at the end of 2019, when Mongabay-India visited him. “It’s been four months since the floods and we have not yet been surveyed. We urge the government to help us survive the loss of flood,” he said.

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Ajit Jinnappa Biranje, a flood victim from Ganeshwadi who lost his partial home and still living in his temporary small home on a farm, which is in Athani taluka of Belgaum district of Karnataka state. He also lost many of his documents in the flood, including agricultural documents and is left with only the ration card of Maharashtra.

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Shirol taluka of Kolhapur district is surrounded by the Krishna river from three sides. The river side of Krishna from Ganeshwadi village shows the damage of huge trees in the floods of August 2019 where the waters in the river went up to a record 62.5 feet. Previously they touched a height of 50 feet in 1989 and 56 feet in 2005.

The Krishna river unites with the Panchganga river close to the border at Narsinhwadi and then further flows to Karnataka where it meets the 524-metre Almatti dam (524 metres and 200 TMC capacity and if filled up to 519 metres 123 TMC capacity) which is the first dam as the river enters Karnataka, located at Nidgundi, Bijapur district. This dam is also known as the Upper Krishna River Project with backwaters in Bagalkot district of north Karnataka. The swelling of these backwaters is a major reason for the floods in 2019. Major parts of those districts were paralysed as the national highway, railway, internal roads were under floodwater for more than eight days in August 2019. Damage to homes, agriculture as well as industrial damage was also observed.

The flood-hit villages have been demanding better compensation from the Maharashtra government; in lieu of which they want their villages to be incorporated within Karnataka. They say the Karnataka government offers better compensation to each affected family residing in the state compared to Maharashtra, specifically in terms of compensation for collapse and damages to homes. The agricultural assistance per hectare, loan waiver and relief in electricity bill and taxes are also better in Karnataka, when compared to Maharashtra’s compensation, claim the farmers.

Comparison of compensation between two states

In September of last year, the villagers of the seven most-affected villages from Shirol taluka carried out a protest march demanding full compensation or being connected to Karnataka.

The Maharashtra government offered loan waiver to farmers who have taken crop loans from a district co-operative bank for an existing farm of up to one hectare. Source: Agriculture Office, Shirol, Maharashtra and Tehsildar Nippani, Belgaum, Karnataka. Photo from Mongabay-India.
The Maharashtra government offered loan waiver to farmers who have taken crop loans from a district co-operative bank for an existing farm of up to one hectare. Source: Agriculture Office, Shirol, Maharashtra and Tehsildar Nippani, Belgaum, Karnataka. Photo from Mongabay-India.

While surveys in both states have been carried out, the complete compensation was yet to be doled out, as of December 2019.

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Devasted by floods and abandoned by her sons, Jainab Patel (right) lives alone in a makeshift house in Gourwad village, Maharashtra. Her house was damaged in the August 2019 floods of Krishna river. Her neighbours take care of her post the disaster.

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The village library of Bubunal lost approximately twenty thousand books in the floodwater in August 2019.

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A villager from Kawathe guland found her lost documents after eight days. Her home was flooded away. The flood victims took shelter in schools, community halls, temples and highlands for more than 10 days.

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Women walk through damaged roads and fields on their way towards Krishna river to use its water.

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Farmers from Alas village of Shirol taluka in Maharashtra burn their banana plantations damaged by the floods. While the agricultural damage is being surveyed by the district agricultural department, only those farmers who have agricultural land in Maharashtra will benefit, said Shirol tehsildar, Aparna More. The district collector Daulat Desai, meanwhile said, “One who has a farm in Maharashtra will be eligible (for compensation), the government cannot bear losses of farm lands from other states.”

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Shirol taluka is rich in agriculture produce and has a strong network of the cooperative sector. Given its proximity, it is socio-economically connected with Karnataka state.

In September of last year, the villagers of the seven most-affected villages from Shirol taluka carried out a protest march demanding full compensation or being connected to Karnataka. While surveys in both states have been carried out, the complete compensation was yet to be doled out, as of December 2019.

Major reasons attributed to these floods have been climate change-affected monsoon pattern followed by unusual rainfall, missing coordination of overflow of two dams Koyana and Almatti, increased height of Almatti, encroachments in redline zone and tampering of technically established flood lines in urban areas.

A technical study to look into the causes of the 2019 floods is being carried out by a committee appointed by state government of Maharashtra in August last year, which is headed by ex-principal secretary of irrigation department, Central Water Commission, the Indian Meteorological and researchers of IIT Mumbai and other experts.

Banner image: Pirgonda Patil, a farmer from Kawatheguland cuts cane from his four-acre farm which was entirely damaged during the floods. Photo from Mongabay-India.

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This article was originally published on Mongabay.com.

Mongabay-India is an environmental science and conservation news service. This article has been republished under the Creative Commons licence.