Farmers in Halaga village in Karnataka are firm on their decision to not give up their fertile land for a sewage treatment plant (STP) proposed in their village in Belagavi district. They have submitted a memorandum to the district authority and the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board (KUWSDB) stating the same.
In April 2018, the KUWSDB called a meeting of municipal administration minister Ramesh Jarkiholi with the farmers to convince them to give up their agricultural land. But the farmers refused.
The STP was first proposed on a plot of governmentowned barren land in Alarwad village by the Belagavi City Corporation (BCC) in 1985 to treat sewage water generated in Belagavi city. The state government sanctioned funds worth Rs 10 crore the same year, and work on the plant began soon after. The BCC even completed the laying of underground drainage lines. But the Pollution Control Board objected, stating that the plant was too close to residential areas and public places. The BCC then decided to shift the plant to Halaga village in 2007. By then, half of the work in Alarwad had already been completed. The District Authority decided that the STP plant in Halaga should be at least 10 km away from the city. Under the new plan, the KUWSDB plans to install two pump houses in Halaga to pump the sewage for treatment. The district authority had offered a compensation of Rs 7,000 per gunta (40 gunta is equal to one acre) to the farmers for their land, while the current market price is Rs 30 lakh per gunta.
The farmers in Halaga village believe that the BCC took a wrong decision to shift the plant from Alarwad to Halaga as the plant would be set up on fertile agricultural land in Halaga, increasing the chances of soil contamination. They claim the STP would have been operational by now if it would have been set up on barren land in Alarwad village as was proposed initially.
In 2015, the Dharwad High Court ruled that the STP was necessary for the city as it would prevent sewage waste from spilling into the land and water. The farmers appealed against the order to a double bench of the high court the same year. In May 2017, the district commissioner ordered the officials of the BCC and KUWSDB to submit a status report of the plant after the farmers staged a massive protest. Additional Deputy Commissioner H.B. Budeppa said that the project cannot be implemented under the Land Acquisition Act if the farmers are unwilling to give up their land. He asked the KUWSDB to look for an alternate location or to try and set up the STP in its original location in Alarwad. In August 2018, then Additional Deputy Commissioner Suresh Itnal asked Assistant Commissioner Kavita Yogappannavar to get a report of the ground situation from the farmers and the BCC.