Karnataka shutdown for water project hits normal life

Bengaluru, Sep 26 (IANS) A day-long shutdown across Karnataka on Saturday demanding early implementation of a canal project to supply river water to state’s parched districts disrupted normal life in many cities and towns.

“The shutdown was complete and peaceful, thanks to overwhelming support from the people across the state. We hope the central and state government will realise the urgency of getting water to the parched districts,” Kannada Chalavali Vatal Paksha president Vatal Nagaraj told reporters here.

The canal project involves building barrages across Kalasa and Banduri tributaries of Mahadayi river to divert 7.6 tmc (thousand million cubic) feet of water to Malaprabha river for supplying it to the three northern districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag, about 500 km from Bengaluru.

Absence of public and private transport and closure of shops, markets, hotels, restaurants, malls, petrol bunks and cinema theatres from dawn to dusk kept people at home till evening.

Thousands of passengers arriving in Bengaluru from outstations in trains and inter-state buses earlier in the day were stranded at railway stations and bus terminals, as taxis, auto and city buses kept off roads.

As a precautionary measure, government-run and private schools and colleges also remained closed, with many of them declaring holiday on Friday.

Even at the Bengaluru airport at Devanahalli, 40 km away from the city, hundreds of passengers were held up on arrival, as taxis did not operate.

Though the 12-hour shut down evoked mixed response in coastal, central and southern towns of the state, it was a complete success in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hubbali-Dharwad, Belagavi, Gadag, Ballari, Bagalkot and Vijapura, as evident from deserted roads and state highways, closure of shops and eateries.

In the state capital, air pollution was 75 percent less than on normal days or weekends, as diesel buses, trucks, cars and autos did not ply and private vehicle users found deserted roads a joy to ride without the usual gridlock.

About, 1,000 people, including women took part in a rally from Town Hall to Freedom Park in the city centre where a public meeting was held to explain the reason for the shutdown and how the parched districts were reeling under drought due to deficit monsoon this year.

Defending the shutdown, a second this month after trade unions observed a similar one on September 2 for other reasons, Nagaraj said it was necessary to highlight the plight of the people, especially farmers in the absence of water resources in the dry region.

Later, Nagaraj presented a memorandum to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, seeking early implementation of the water project to provide relief to the affected people.

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