Desperate Maaravalli sinks with its borewells

Desperate Maaravalli sinks with its borewells300 were drilled in the last 10 months alone in western Karnataka village, but most of them have run dry

It is a dubious claim to fame but Maaravalli in western Karnataka has more borewells than households.

This arecanut growing village in Shikaripur taluk of Shivamogga district, with 792 households, has more than 900 agricultural borewells, many of which are over 800 feet deep.

A second consecutive year of failed monsoons and the resultant drought sweeping the State has spread panic among the farmers. Haunted by last year’s bitter experience of losing the arecanut crop on nearly 200 hectares due to acute shortage of water, the desperate farmers have resorted to indiscriminate digging of borewells.

On an average, at least one borewell has been sunk every day in the last 10 months, with nearly 300 being dug in as many days.

Vidya C.M., president of the gram panchayat, says the village has land holding of around 2,500 hectares, and arecanut is cultivated on most of this land. But the desperate measures have only added to the burdens of the distressed farmers.

The two borewells on Eshappa’s three-hectare plantation ran dry in April. By selling two cows and borrowing from money lenders, he mobilised ₹3 lakh to dig another borewell. However, the yield from the third well has been much lower than expected, and Mr. Eshappa says he has no choice but to buy water to save his crop.

With no bank willing to extend loans to buy water, Mr. Eshappa will have to turn to moneylenders again. Murthy Gowda, another arecanut farmer, says more than 80 per cent of the borewells have dried up in the village and most farmers are paying exorbitant amounts for water tankers to irrigate and save their plantations. The drying up of the borewells has meant that the ₹3-3.5 lakh spent on drilling each well is literally money down the hole for the farmer, he points out.

The indiscriminate drilling of borewells has led to rapid depletion of groundwater and a shortage of drinking water. Panchayat Development Officer Pushpa says that of the 10 borewells sunk for supplying drinking water, only two are yielding water.

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