October 2002
This report is based on a study of Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management, jointly carried
out by Overseas Development Institute (London), Social and Economic Research Associates (London),
TARU Leading Edge (New Delhi and Hyderabad), Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (Bangalore),
Centre for World Solidarity (Hyderabad) and Sanket (Bhopal), and supported by Ford Foundation, New
October 2002
This report is based on a study of Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management, jointly carried
out by Overseas Development Institute (London), Social and Economic Research Associates (London),
TARU Leading Edge (New Delhi and Hyderabad), Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (Bangalore),
Centre for World Solidarity (Hyderabad) and Sanket (Bhopal), and supported by Ford Foundation, New
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................................... 1
A Brief Profile of the State ..................................................................................................................1
Some Aspects of Karnataka's Economy...............................................................................................2
CHAPTER II: WATERSHED DEVELOPMENT IN KARNATAKA ......................................................... 13
Organisational Structure of the Government Sponsored Watershed Development Projects..............14
Key points/Hypothesis .......................................................................................................................15
CHAPTER III: JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT IN KARNATAKA..................................................... 18
Key Points/Hypothesis.......................................................................................................................18
CHAPTER IV: PANCHAYATI RAJ IN KARNATAKA .............................................................................. 21
Panchayat Raj Institutions in Karnataka ...........................................................................................21
Some Amendments to the Act ...........................................................................................................23
Recent Developments ........................................................................................................................24
The Panchayat Act and the Reality ....................................................................................................24
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION......................................................................................................................... 27
ANNEX 1: GEOGRAPHICAL REGIONS OF KARNATAKA ................................................................... 29
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................................. 32
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
The 1990s have seen a burgeoning of interest in environmental issues. The most dramatic
has been the agitation over the Narmada dam spearheaded by the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
But there have been many initiatives across India in many areas - watershed development and
joint forest management being very important among these. The 1990s have also seen a
process of decentralization (after the 73rd amendment) being implemented - the creation of
local level self governments known as panchayats being central to this process. Forests,
watersheds, and common lands appear in the list of subjects that could be devolved to the
local bodies by the states in this process.
This paper is part of a larger study of the interaction between these local bodies and the
natural resource management programs - mainly watersheds and joint forest management
initiatives - in three states of India. An overall literature review and situation analysis has
been completed at the national level, and such exercises are being undertaken at the level of
the states being studied. This paper written in this background, reviews the literature in
Karnataka on these topics, and presents a situation analysis of where the state stands today.
This forms the background to fieldwork that will follow.
The paper is organized as follows: Part 2 presents some aspects of Karnataka's economy,
which become useful in appreciating the issues relating to natural resource management. Part
3 reviews the literature and facts on natural resource management in Karnataka, focusing on
watersheds and Part 4 on forests. The section ends with a situation analysis - where does the
state stand today?
What are the major areas of concern and priority? Part 5 looks at the ongoing processes of
decentralization specific to this state including the perspective on natural resource
management. Part 6 presents some tentative conclusions. It should be mentioned at the outset
that the situation analysis has benefited a great deal from some of the earlier analytical
studies/reviews on the subject. Among them special mention may be made of those by
Nadkarni (1996,1999,2000), Vyasulu (2000 a, 2000 b), Satishchandran (2000) and Abdul
Aziz (2000).
A Brief Profile of the State
Karnataka State is the eighth largest in the country covering an area of 190,498 lakh sq km.
Coastal zone is a narrow strip of land between the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats
in the East, Kerala in the South and Goa in the North. The state forms the southwestern part
of the Deccan Peninsula and lies between the latitudes 11' 12N and 18' 12N and longitudes
73'48' E and 78'18'E. According to the 1991 census the state's population is 44.98 million
and the population density is 235 per sq km. The state consists of 27 districts with 175 taluks
comprising of 27066 inhabited villages (Karnataka Agriculture - A profile, April 2000).
The area of the state can be broadly classified into 4 principal regions based on geographical
considerations: coastal/malnad, southern maidan and northern maidan. Based on rainfall
pattern, topography, soil characteristics and climate, the state's area has been grouped into ten
distinct agro-climatic zones, of which five are predominantly dry zones. These dry zones
account for 71 per cent of the total cultivated area in the state (See Appendix) Uneven
development across the regions may be partly explained by the varied agro-climatic
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
environment prevailing therein1. Therefore it is expected that state's development would be
directed to overcome the developmental imbalances across agro-climatic zones with a view to
achieving uniform growth.
After 1956, when the state as it is today was formed, Bangalore has been emerging as the
decision making centre of the state. Earlier, it was Mysore for the princely Mysore and other
places for the rest of the state. Five different jurisdictions got merged into Karnataka, and it is
only in the last 20 years or so that one uniform set of procedures has begun to come into play.
This too has strengthened Bangalore as a focal point for decisions.
As modernisation took place, ideas of the free market, of high tech economies and
specialisation became embedded in thinking in this capital city, which got rapidly integrated
into the global economy. Decision makers gradually got distanced from the rural hinterland.
The psychological distance also impacted into decision making. What was modern tends to
seem reasonable in Bangalore—but it provokes strong reactions in the rural country side. The
very modernisation of the capital may have led to a political gap between the leaders in the
capital and the people elsewhere.
There has also been a history of environmental activism in parts of Karnataka in the past. In
the 1920s and 1930s, all along the western ghats of Uttar Kannada, Chickmagalur and
Kodagu, was the well known “jungle satyagraha” aimed at forest conservation. These
different regions got integrated into one state, but the differential impact of these agitations—
who won, who lost etc—have yet to be documented. In taking up joint forest management as
a case study, then we are building on the past.
Some Aspects of Karnataka's Economy
State Domestic Product: Composition and Trends
An analysis of changes in the relative contributions of different sectors to the State Domestic
Product (SDP) over time is helpful in appreciating the persisting importance and role of
natural resources in Karnataka's economy. In 1980-81 agriculture and allied activities
contributed 42.8 per cent to the SDP and mining and quarrying contributed another 0.6
percent. Thus the economic sectors which depended directly on harnessing of nature
contributed for 43.4 per cent of SDP in 1980-81. By 1989-90 the share of these two sectors
declined to 35.8 percent and 0.2 percent respectively (Source: Stagnation of Agricultural
Productivity in Karnataka during 1980’s: Report of the Expert Committee, 1993). But these
changes were not accompanied by a corresponding decline in the share of the workforce thus
causing a worry to the policy makers. The proportion of agricultural workers (cultivators and
agricultural labourers) in the total workforce which was 80.18 percent in 1981 declined only
slightly (79.7 per cent) by 1991 (Source: A.V. Arun Kumar, et al., Employment Structure in
Karnataka: 1981 & 1991 in Vinod Vyasulu ed: Facets of Development, Rawat Publications,
1997), in spite of a continuous and large decline in the share of agriculture and allied
"ACRP has still to make transition from the learning phase consisting of a series of exploratory exercises to the
operational phase where it has to start undertaking the factors which it has been designed to carve... Another
issue, which would need careful consideration, is the data inputs needed by ACRP in the operational phase..... It
is necessary to remember that ACRP can only be as good as the data on which it relies." V M Rao, Planning for
Liberation : ACRO in the Changing Context in D N Basu and G S Guha, Agro-climatic Regional Planning in
India, Vol. 1, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, Page 299.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
activities in SDP. This only means that while non-agricultural sectors have grown fast in
terms of income generated they have not grown correspondingly in terms of employment
generated2. In other words, the pressure of poor people, the residual not absorbed by the fast
growing sectors continues to remain on land, forests and fisheries (i.e., natural resources). It
is this section of the Karnataka's economy that becomes a source of pressure on land. This
may be expected to reflect in the form of encroachment on forests and other common lands
for extending the cultivated area and over-exploitation of forests and fisheries. It is in this
context that we have to examine the changes in the asset distribution and the land use pattern
in rural Karnataka with a view to understanding their implications for sustainable use of
natural resources.
Asset Distribution in Rural Karnataka
Data on distribution of assets in rural Karnataka are available from the All India Debt and
Investment Survey (AIDIS) 1971-72 and NSS 37th Round, January-December 1982
respectively. Such data are not unfortunately available beyond 1982 and therefore we are
compelled to limit our discussion to changes that took place between two time-points: 1971
and 1982.
The trend in inequality in the asset distribution among rural households as measured by the
Gini coefficient decreased from 0.6232 in 1971-72 to 0.4726 in 1982 suggesting an
improvement in the asset distribution. This was rendered possible largely due to the
corresponding reduction in inequality in the assets of cultivator households: Gini coefficient
reduced from 0.5284 to 0.3655, while the inequality in the assets of non-cultivator
households reduced marginally: Gini coefficient reduced from 0.6567 to 0.6366 (M
Prahladachar ,1987).
The overall improvement in the asset distribution among rural households over the years
1971 to 1982 can hardly make us complacent as it conceals the highly iniquitous and skewed
asset distribution between cultivators and non-cultivators. The disadvantaged position in
which the non-cultivators are placed economically as against the cultivators is reflected in the
fact that in 1971-72 the average value of assets held by the cultivator households was 7 times
higher than that of the non-cultivator households.
Although the margin of difference in the average value of assets held by the cultivator
households and non-cultivator households got somewhat narrowed down by 1982, the
difference was still five times more in favour of the cultivator households.
The disturbing fact that non-cultivators in comparison to cultivators are placed in an
economically disadvantaged position gets corroborative evidence from a study analyzing the
data on consumer expenditure for the year 1983 (Venkataramanan and Satyapriya, 1987.)
Accordingly, cultivators had the highest per capita expenditure (Rs. 294.74) and the
Sector wise growth rates of income and workforce during 1981 to 1991 were as follows:
Growth rate of
Growth rate of
Primary sector
Secondary sector
Tertiary sector
All sectors
Source : Culled out from data presented in Table 8, Human Development in Karnataka 1999/Statistical table,
page 315 &324.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
agricultural labourers the lowest expenditure (Rs. 220.69), while the per capita expenditure of
non-agricultural workers was Rs. 257.86. Further the study found that the inequalities in
consumption among rural households arose largely because of inequality in land
owned/operated by them. It is clear, therefore, that the levels of per capita consumption,
which serve as a proxy for the levels of income of rural households, are significantly
determined by the levels of their owning/operating land.
Land Distribution
The land holding distribution (operated area) between 1970-71 and 1990-91 changed in
favour of marginal and smallholdings; their relative share both in number and area registered
an improvement. Semi-medium farms' relative share in number reduced but their share in
area improved, whereas the medium and large farms lost their relative share both in number
and Area. Although it is difficult to sort out how far the changes in land distribution across
size classes are (i) due to land reform measures set in motion by government policy and/or
(ii) due to sub-division of land among family members either due to inheritance or due to
circumventing of land ceiling laws, the fact of the matter is that the relative importance of
medium and large farms in the rural economy of Karnataka has declined leaving a substantial
portion of land in the hands of small and semi-medium holdings. Without going into the
changes in the land holding pattern across the districts over time for want of space suffice it
to mention that average size of land holding is relatively large in northern maidan districts
compared to that in the districts of other regions: coastal, malnad and Southern maidan
Irrigation across Land Holding Classes
The striking feature in the distribution pattern of irrigated area across land holding classes is
that the relative share appropriated by the large farms in the irrigated area under each of the
individual sources of irrigation registered a decline over the period 1970-71 to 1980-81.
Medium farms also experienced a moderate decline in their relative share in the irrigated
area. It is redeeming, therefore, to observe that small and semi-medium farms were able to
improve their shares in the irrigated area at the expense of the medium and large farms. But
again these observations based on official data mean to be read with caution, in view of the
inherent difficulties in sorting out real changes from the ones played to beat the provisions of
land reforms law.
Other Assets Distribution across Land Holding Classes
Drawing on evidence available from the NSS Survey 26th Round, a study showed that in
1971-72 the distribution of owned cattle and buffaloes, agricultural machinery and
equipment’s per household operational holding were iniquitous, in the sense that as one
moved along the size class of operational holding, the average number owned was on the
higher side (Venkataramanan, et al. 1985). But a favourable aspect of the distribution of these
assets was that the households in the lower groups in general, possessed on the average either
comparable or higher number of these assets per unit of operated area as compared to those
possessed by the higher groups.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Changes in Land Use Pattern: 1958-59 and 1995-96
Agriculture constitutes the major use of land in Karnataka. Net sown area and current falloffs
together accounted for 59 per cent of the state's geographical area in 1958-59, and 56.9 per
cent in 1995-96 thus registering a relative decline. The proportion of land under forests as
per legal status (not necessarily under tree cover) increased in the corresponding period from
14.4 per cent to 16.2 per cent. Permanent pastures, cultivable wastes and other fallows taken
together, can be interpreted to represent common property resource used for grazing. The
proportion of such land declined only slightly from 15.4 per cent to 14.5 per cent during
1958-59 to 1995-96.
However, these changes in land use pattern as observed through the official statistics need not
be taken at their face value in view of their being bound by several limitations. For instance,
there is reason to believe that the land under agriculture is under-estimated and that under
grazing lands is over-estimated mainly because encroachments into the commons for
cultivation are not reflected in the official land use data. Similarly encroachments into
forestland are also not officially taken cognizance of while reporting land use data. Our
skepticism about the accuracy of the official land use data at the macro level gets reinforced
when we look at the field evidence emanating from micro level studies contradicting the
official claims. (For details see Nadkarni and Pasha, 1991). Therefore it would be naïve to
think that official land use data reflect accurately the physical condition of land under
different uses. We turn to this later.
Irrigation development in Karnataka is essentially a post-independence phenomenon. The
total area under irrigation (major, medium and minor projects) was 6.71 lakh hectares
forming a little over 6 per cent of the cultivated area in 1985. The share of major and
medium irrigation in total irrigated area was only 32 per cent. In 1997-98 the net irrigated
area in the state was 23.62 lakh hectares and the gross irrigated area was 29.12 lakh hectares.
Thus about 25 per cent of the total cultivated area in the state was irrigated in 1997-98.
The ultimate irrigation potential of the state from all sources is estimated to be about 55 lakh
hectares. In spite of irrigation getting a sizeable share in the state's plan outlay, the returns
from irrigation have been disappointing. Operational losses in major irrigation projects have
been on the increase indicating their poor performance. The problems faced by the state in
executing the major irrigation projects was candidly put forth in the official document:
Approach to Karnataka Seventh Five year Plan (1985-90) which is worth reproducing:
"Indeed it is manifestly clear that the ostensible benefit-cost ratios upon which projects are
initially sanctioned are based on estimates and projections which are completely falsified in
subsequent years and such lumpy investments are continued over successive five year plans
on largely untested assumptions and beliefs without injecting greater plausibility into
estimates about the costs of projects, their time schedules of completion, the creation of
irrigation potential, the actual utilization of irrigation and the ultimate returns that such
projects should give. These include the direct financial returns to the government from these
projects as well as the wider returns consequent upon the increases in agricultural
productivity. The irrigation sector is consequently characterized by a large operating
financial deficit" (Government of Karnataka, Planning Department, An Approach to Seventh
Five Year Plan 1985-90).
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Till recently irrigation was considered synonymous with the construction of dams and canal
network. The distribution and management aspects received much less attention leading to
several adverse effects. Some others are of the view that many irrigation projects have fallen
short of expectations, partly because they have been designed and managed exclusively from
an engineering point of view without integrating into them the non-engineering aspects.
Canal Irrigation
Canal irrigation is the major source of irrigation in Karnataka. About 9.72 lakh hectares of
total irrigated area of 23.25 lakh hectares i.e., 39.9 per cent was under canal irrigation in
1994-95. Canal irrigation is mainly concentrated in the districts of Raichur, Belgaum,
Bijapur, Bellary, Mysore, Mandya, Gulbarga, Shimoga and Dharwad. These districts account
for 96 per cent of the entire area irrigated by canals in the state. Among all these districts
Raichur has the highest area under canal irrigation (19 per cent), followed by Bellary and
Mandya districts.
Well Irrigation/Ground Water Use for Irrigation
Next to canals, wells constitute the major source of irrigation in Karnataka. In 1994-95, 35
per cent of total irrigated area was under wells (including bore-wells). There has been a
marked growth in the area under well irrigation over the last two to three decades. Ground
water is an indispensable source of irrigation in parts of hard rock areas of the state where
there are no flows of perennial rivers and also in areas where tank irrigation is losing its preeminent position due to a variety of factors which we shall take up a little later in the text.
Historically, prior to the introduction of modern ground water technology (based on electric
or diesel pumps) extraction of ground water for irrigation was undertaken to a very large
extent by small farmers through traditional water lifts (human and/or animal operated).
Drudgery and not too attractive economic gains associated with irrigated farming by
traditional water lifts were possibly the primary reasons why large farmers did not choose
them to extract ground water for irrigation in a big way. This scenario has drastically altered
with the introduction of modern ground water technology with large farmers dominating the
extraction of ground water. The major reasons why the ownership pattern of modern Water
Extraction Mechanisms (WEMs) is skewed in favour of large farmers are identified in the
literature to be their advantageous resource position, capacity for lumpy investment, politicalcum-bureaucratic influence and access to institutional credit markets. Conspicuous private
economic gains associated with irrigated farming by modern ground water technology
especially since the green revolution has acted as the driving force behind the alacrity with
which large farmers are going in for ground water extraction. The result has been the over
drafting and over-crowding of wells. This development has caused externalities- both of
short term and long term nature - disfavouring the small farmers in owning and/or operating
successfully WEMs (Prahladachar, 1994).
The rights in ground water belong to the land owner as ground water is attached to the land
property. There is no limitation on the volume of ground water extraction by a landowner.
Though land owners own ground water de jure this right is limited by the huge investment
necessary to tap the ground water by construction/drilling of irrigation wells and high well
failure probability which makes a selected few among them to have access to ground water.
In the eastern dry zone of Karnataka the probability of well failure is estimated to be 40 per
cent (Nagaraj,, 1984).
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Given the substantial incentives for ground water withdrawal (in terms of electricity pricing
or non-pricing, soft loans, attractive private economic gains etc.) and lack of ground water
institutions to monitor ground water use for irrigation, externalities in well irrigation in hard
rock areas are intricate and continue to exist.
The valuation of externalities is crucial in appreciating the positive role of subsidies and
incentives, which promote efficient ground water use like drip or sprinkler irrigation. In
areas where cumulative well interference is apparent provision of incentives like free
electricity supply, soft loans, may exacerbate the negative externalities, while provision of
incentives like subsidies on sprinkler and/or drip irrigation systems generate positive
externalities (Chandrakanth and Arun, 1997).
From time immemorial, tanks have constituted an important source of irrigation in Karnataka
and have played a vital role in providing among others food security, insurance against
conditions of scarcity and floods, prevention of soil erosion and recharging of groundwater
aquifers. All these benefits were rendered possible due to carefully evolved traditional
systems of tank management involving local functionaries, keeping community welfare and
equity as the guiding principles. With the abolition of the village functionaries by the British,
the neglect and decay of tanks set in, resulting in improper, inefficient use of tank water at the
cost of community welfare considerations. The role of tanks which was envisaged to bestow
multiple benefits to the rural economy (as listed above) has certainly suffered a great deal,
due to the neglect of water management aspects.
Nevertheless tanks still occupy a significant place in the Karnataka's agriculture and
accounted for 10 per cent of total irrigated area in the state in 1994-95. Tanks are relatively
more concentrated in the southern maidan districts of the state.
Water Rates
The latest water rates as prescribed in 1988 have undergone further revision. In respect of
irrigation works having irrigated area upto 100 acres, no water rates are leviable; in respect of
irrigation works having irrigated area ranging from 101 to 5000 acres, only 50 per cent of
water rates leviable in respect of irrigation works having irrigated area of 5001 acres and
more are proposed.
More than 90 per cent of the tanks have an irrigated area of 100 acres or less. Therefore,
none of the farmers under such tanks shall have to pay any water rate.
Present Status
Under Panchayat Raj Act, 1993, Schedule I, Section 58, construction, repairs and
maintenance of drinking water wells and tanks and ponds come under the purview of Gram
Under Schedule II, Section 145, it is the responsibility of Taluk Panchayat to assist the
Government and Zilla Panchayat in the construction and maintenance of minor irrigation
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Implementation of community and individual irrigation works; providing for the timely and
equitable distribution and full use of water under irrigation schemes are under the control of
the Zilla Panchayat.
How far these responsibilities assigned to the PRIs are being/can be effectively discharged,
needs to be examined through special studies designed for the purpose.
Why Sustainable use of Natural Resources is Important for Rural Development
in Karnataka
A synoptic view of the foregoing account of Karnataka's rural economy in its various
dimensions leads us to highlight the following:
Among the landed households, the proportion of marginal and smallholdings is quite high
(nearby two-thirds of the total holdings in 1990-91). Rural poverty stood at 29.88 per cent in
1993-94. Of the total rural population in 1991, 20.6 per cent belonged to SC/ST. All these
facts indicate that quite a high proportion of rural population/households is economically
vulnerable, not to mention the aspect of their social vulnerability. These sections of rural
society have low opportunity cost due to several deprivations in regard to health, education,
skills, etc. resulting in low bargaining strength in employment/labour market. Also in view of
their poor access to land and other assets, self-employment prospects are not bright. This
unenviable socio-economic status of the rural poor forces them to hang on natural resources:
land, forests and fisheries for their livelihood.
In this situation, it is ironical enough, that Karnataka's agriculture is predominantly rainfed,
with about one-fourth of the total cultivated area only irrigated. Even a sizeable portion of
this total irrigated area is dependent on tanks and open wells, which are directly dependent on
annual precipitation. Thus, the development of the dry land economy of Karnataka, which is
characterized by poor resource base, needs an approach, which focuses on sustainable use
and management of its natural resources. It is in this context that watershed development
programme and joint forest planning and management programme, which are being
implemented in the state, assume a special significance and relevance.
Before dwelling upon the experience of Karnataka in regard to these programs, we shall look
into certain aspects and issues relating to its natural resources.
We have already mentioned about the difficulties in relying on official land use data in
reflecting the true state of affairs, among others, under forests. To elaborate on this point
further, it is reported that in Uttara Kannada district forest land submerged under reservoirs or
leased out for cultivation totaling over 1,000 sq km was still reported as forest land in land
use statistics (Reddy, 1986). In districts like Shimoga, Chickmagalur and Dakshina
Kannada, significant fractions of physically forested land, but which come under the
jurisdiction of the revenue department do not get counted in the official statistics on
forestland. This is not to deny the official process that has started in 'transferring' the
forestland under the Revenue Department to the Forest Department, thus 'qualifying' it to be
counted in the official statistics. It is possible therefore that part of the increase in forest area
as reported in the official land use statistics is 'statistical' and not real in nature.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
The effort to know the physical condition of land in particular gets complicated due to
sizeable differences in forest cover statistics as reported by several agencies, despite making
due adjustments for differences in definitions adopted by them. For example, the State of
Forests reports of the Forest Survey of India have indicated that 81 per cent of Kodagu
district is under forest cover, though cultivated area as per official land use statistics accounts
for more than 36 per cent. Forest Survey of India's own maps published at 1:2,50,000 scale
for 1990 indicates only 35 per cent area under forests including serial vegetation. In general,
reliable information on forest condition at the meso-scale is little scarce (Lele,, 1998).
The most recent and reliable estimate of forest cover - natural and artificial, dense and open in Karnataka as a whole comes to 13 to 14 per cent of the state's geographical area (NRSA,
1983; Sinha, 1988).
Over the years, commercial considerations and market forces have played their own role in
taking a toll on forest cover, especially in the Western Ghats districts. Encroachment of
forestland for purposes of extending cultivation to a commercial crop like coffee in
Chickmagalur and Kodagu districts provides a glaring example of this phenomenon. Forest
loss is estimated to vary from 13 to 53 per cent in the Western Ghats districts (Menon and
Bawa 1998; Bannur and Sharath Chandra, 1997.).
Factors causing forest loss in the state as listed by the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD)
for the two periods: 1956 to 1981 and 1981 to 1988 are quite revealing in that extension of
cultivation to forest land stands out as the largest 'culprit', accounting for nearly two-thirds
during 1981-88 and the remaining caused by the development projects.
Within these broad distressing trends, however, stands hidden the official efforts in increasing
the forest cover in the state mainly through afforestation programs. But to the extent these
programs concentrated on promoting mono-cultural forest plantations till 1980s and mixed
plantations since 1980, the focus seems to be misplaced and not helpful in arresting the
decline in natural forest and/or regenerating the forests. The long-term trend seems to have
been one of shift from closed canopy forest to open canopy forest and from evergreen to
moist-deciduous vegetation types. Standing stock may not have declined in the same
proportion as forest canopy, since human use results often in disproportionate pruning of
crowns (Lele, 1998b).
There are also evidences to show that the plant species composition has definitely become
less 'rich' as many rare and endangered plants were lost or rendered scarce (Daniels, 1993).
The reasons for this are fragmentation of forests; erosion of habitat quality due to changes in
composition and densities and significant poaching pressures.
The concomitant of forest degradation has been the reduction in the availability of fuel and
timber to local communities dependent on them in certain areas. This situation of local
communities is rendered worse by the ban on green felling resulting in the reduction of the
official supply of commercial fuel wood and timber. The ban on green felling seems to have
come as a delayed official response by the forest department to forestall the depletion of
certain species, in the hope, that situations like a significant decline in bamboo which got
accentuated due to wrong pricing of the raw material at the cost of forest regeneration would
not recur.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
It is interesting to place the changes in forestland in an interface with the official response in
managing this resource. As observed earlier, till at least the mid-80s, afforestation efforts
were mainly oriented towards meeting commercial species like timber, soft wood and fuel
wood, as reflected in the plantations of teak, eucalyptus and casurina. Even under the social
forestry phase, from 1983 to 1992, the focus on these species was not changed. In many
cases social forestry plantations reduced the availability of grazing lands to villagers, who
had to be content with lops and tops!
This led to protest movements led by NGOs like Samaja Parivartan Samudaya and led to a
change of policy towards promoting mixed species plantations. Till 1992, however, the
agencies of afforestation were the KFD and such other government departments operating in
a centralized, bureaucratic, prohibit and police manner.
From 1993 onwards, however, there has been a visibly increased focus on the involvement of
local communities in afforestation mainly under JFM. We turn to this later.
Does a clearly defined access to and exclusive control of the resource by local users ensures
its sustainable management? Many instances that have happened in Karnataka do not fully
support this. 'Betta' lands in Uttara Kannada where areca gardeners had exclusive access if
not ownership were degraded due to indifference to regeneration. 'Banne' lands in Kodagu
under privatized access have all been converted to coffee plantations. 'Kumki' lands in
Dakshina Kannada have been converted to cashew or other plantations. This highlights the
basic tension between different roles of forests, valued differently by different interest
groups. Institutional innovations that enable local communities to be compensated for
providing global benefits from forests and a political environment and process committed to
fairness and sustainability -both largely missing- will be necessary for a successful resolution
of these tensions (Nadkarni, 1999).
In sum, though Karnataka has been endowed with a particularly rich forest flora and fauna
and widely distributed network of pasturelands, Karnataka's post-independence record of
conserving them has hardly been encouraging. Forests and pastures have declined
significantly particularly in quality and re-generation efforts have had only a marginal
success in addressing the problems (Nadakarni, 1999).
Soil Erosion/Conservation
11.4 million hectares of the total geographical area of 19.05 million hectares i.e., 59.8 per
cent was degraded in Karnataka during the early 90s. This covered both cultivated and
uncultivated areas. Karnataka certainly deserves appreciation for being a pioneering state in
taking up soil conservation programs. But the fact that till 1992-93 only 30.6 per cent of the
problem area was treated brings out the magnitude and severity of the problem still on hand.
The old approach focused only on soil conservation, which was not very effective. This has
now been replaced by a more comprehensive and integrated approach of watershed
development, which includes soil and water conservation in dry and semi-arid areas. The soil
conservation cell grew into the dryland development board, and then into the department of
watersheds. Discussion on watershed development, we shall take up a little later.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Dependence of almost all families living in rural areas directly or indirectly on livestock
resources for their living need not be overstressed (as a source of draught power, organic
manure, livestock products like milk, meat, egg, etc.).
The density of livestock per hectare of land taking only forest, agricultural land (including
current fallow), pastures, cultivable wastes and other fallows were only 1.38 in Karnataka in
1990, whereas it was 1.71 in India as a whole.
To highlight a few changes in the growth of livestock categories: a slight decline in sheep
population; significant increases (34.3 per cent) in goat population; increase in female bovine
population (26.1 per cent) between 1961 and 1990. The importance of goats as a source of
milk has declined relatively sharply. They are used mainly as a source of meat. Milk
production increased significantly by 160 per cent between 1976-77 and 1995-96.
Indigenous cows contributed 35.4 per cent, crossbred cows 19.5 per cent and buffaloes 44.7
per cent of total milk production in 1995-96. The present per capita per day availability of
milk at 192 grams though higher than earlier is still lower than the ICMR norm of 250 grams.
Much of the increase in milk production has been achieved by a push through
commercialization of the Dairy sector involving a shift from CPRs as a source of fodder to
crop residues and commercial fodder and feeds. The role of CPRs in animal husbandry
remains important mainly for the poor and for indigenous cattle and small ruminants.
While the growth in livestock results in several benefits to the human population, it is
important to reckon the additional pressure it exerts on land and forests, more so when it
happens in the context of declining pastures and other common lands to support them. The
promotion of livestock has almost become an integral part of poverty alleviation programs
thereby consciously or unconsciously adding to the pressure on natural resources. Northern
maidan seems to be facing this problem more acutely than other regions as seen from an
analysis of village grazing lands in Karnataka (Nadkarni, 1990). This is tried to be made
good by using crop residues and other commercial fodder. Since cows of local breed and
small ruminants depend on common lands, an increase in such livestock may call for some
measures for regulating grazing like rotational grazing and for sustainable management of
Fishery is a source of livelihood to many fishermen particularly in the coastal districts of
Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada. Inland fisheries provide seasonal and subsidiary
income and employment. But their role is also considerably less in Karnataka than in states
like Kerala and West Bengal.
The state has a coastal length of 300 km, 27,000 sq km of continental shelf and 87,000 km of
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with about 3.03 lakh marine fishermen living in 202 fishing
Marine fish catch increased from 1.61 lakh tones in 1980-81 to 2.23 lakh tones in 1996-97
(i.e., by 39 per cent). Regrettably estimates of annual rate of regeneration of marine fish and
of what can be considered as sustainable exploitation are not available.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Inland fisheries produce increased from 46,652 tonnes in 1980-81 to 101,654 tonnes in 199697 i.e., by 118 per cent. This increase came about in spite of a decline in the number of tanks
and shrinkage in their spread. Most of the inland fish is captured and traded in an informal
and unorganized way by poor people.
The state also has about 8000 hectares of brackish water out of which 4200 are estimated to
be suitable for aqua-culture. Of this, only 1000 hectares are developed. There seems to be
unutilized potential in brackish water. But this should be done cautiously so as to avoid
irreversible environmental costs.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Of the watershed development programs operating in the country, Karnataka has witnessed
the implementation of the following categories:
1. Operational research projects (ORP) sponsored by ICAR/CRIDA (Mittemari, Kolar
2. World Bank funded watershed projects (Kabbal nala, Bangalore Rural).
3. District Watershed Development programme (DWDP) launched by Government of
Karnataka in 19 selected watersheds, one in each district from 1983-84 onwards.
4. National Watershed Development Project for rainfed areas (NWDPRA) implemented by
the State government with some modifications.
5. NGOs sponsored programs [Participative Integrated Development of Watersheds
(PIDOW) project in Gulbarga].
6. European Donor Sponsored Programs (Karnataka Watershed Development Project :
DANIDA; Karnataka Integrated Watershed Management Project (kreditanstalt fur widerauf
ban); Karnataka Watershed Development Project (Overseas Development administration /
Department for International Development).
Watershed development projects coming under the above categories differ in terms of
techniques, administration, and planning and system composition. Until recently the
government sponsored watershed development projects followed a top-down approach, but
people's participation is now being emphasized.
Many evaluation studies which have analysed the impact of watershed development on crop
yields income, employment, stability of yields and water tables have shown significantly
positive results (Deshpande and Nikumbh, 1993; Ninan and Lakshmikanthamma, 1994;
Lakshmikanthamma, 1997). But the benefits have tended to favour the landed groups
whereas the landless and scheduled castes/scheduled tribes have benefited only marginally
(Rao and Erappa,1990; Ninan, 1998). The lack of effective participation of people in
watershed development has been a constraining institutional factor in government sponsored
projects. However, efforts are now being made to give more voice to local people's roles and
NGOs in watershed development. There are strong reasons to believe that this turn of events
is more due to the donor pressure than due to the government's own volition.
Maintenance of assets created in the project, in the post project phase, has continued to be a
gnawing problem, despite institutional innovations in terms of village level watershed
committees with local people set up for the purpose. A perceptive researcher with first hand
knowledge and close acquaintance with two watersheds indicated this problem quite some
time back in a succinct way which is worth quoting not for the uniqueness of the case but
possibly for having the force of a general nature: "the various erosion control structures built
in non-arable land were not properly maintained and the farmers showed little or no concern
in this regard and expect the state to maintain them". Curious enough it was also pointed out
by this researcher that the people were not in favour of involving the PRIs in the maintenance
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
of assets. "Farmers generally opine that even the forested area should be managed by the
Forest Department and should not be handed over to the local panchayat institutions. They
were apprehensive about exploitation of the plantations by vested interest groups in local
bodies" (Ramanna 1991.).
Starting from 1984 around 1,00,000 hectares of rainfed area had been treated every year
under the programme, the cumulative total upto 1987 being 14.41 lakh hectares. The average
cost of treatment per hectare worked out to be only Rs. 2,825 (State Watershed Cell, 1997).
The area treated upto 1997 under Watershed Development Programs (excluding areas treated
under earlier soil conservation programs) works out to be only 7.5 per cent of the
geographical area of the state. But the significance of this effort lies in the fact that it relates
to dry and semi-arid tracts of the state.
Organisational Structure of the Government Sponsored Watershed Development
As mentioned earlier, the government of Karnataka launched the District Watershed
Development Programme (DWDP) in 19 selected watersheds, one in each district from 198384 onwards for implementing this programme. The Government of Karnataka evolved a
three-tier structure consisting of a State Watershed Development Council at the state level,
Dryland Development Boards at the divisional level and Watershed Development teams at
the District/Watershed level. The Chief Minister headed the State Watershed Development
Council. The entire programme was under the control of the Secretary, Department of
Agriculture and Horticulture. Apart from the state level policy committee, there was a State
Watershed Development Cell (SWDC) headed by the Director with a multi-disciplinary team
having experts in agriculture, land-use planning, forestry and economics. Planning,
monitoring and coordinating the entire programme in the state were the responsibility of the
SWDC. At the district, the District Watershed Development Committee under the
chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner was responsible for the preparation and scrutiny
of plan prepared by the District Watershed Development Team. At the project level, the
Watershed Development Team under the leadership of the Project Director with sectoral
heads from agriculture, horticulture and forestry disciplines was responsible to ensure an
integrated approach with a team spirit for effective planning and implementation of the
Recent Changes in the Organizational Structure
Since April 2000, Soil Conservation Cell of the State Department of Agriculture has been
established as a full-fledged Watershed Development Department. All the projects held so
far by the Department of Agriculture, with the exception of Karnataka Watershed
Development Project (KWDP) : Danish aided project, have been transferred to this newly
created Watershed Development Department (WDD). WDD is headed by the Director with
the support of the following administrative personnel relating to six sectors:
1. Agriculture: Two Joint Directors in charge of soil conservation and agronomy respectively.
2. Forest: Four Conservators of Forest assisted by four Assistant Conservators of Forest
3. Horticulture: Joint Director assisted by Assistant Horticulture Officer.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
4. Animal Husbandry: Deputy Director - livestock specialist assisted by Assistant Director of
Animal Husbandry.
5. Administration and Planning: Joint Director assisted by an Agricultural Officer.
6. Economist
In addition to the above administrative personnel there is a Deputy Director heading the
statistics section assisted by four Assistant Statistical Officers. There are five Agricultural
Officers and common supporting staff for all the sections.
The idea behind this newly created department is to institute a nodal agency under whose
authority the line departments like agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and horticulture
function to ensure a coordinated and integrated planning and implementation of watershed
development programs in the states.
This new arrangement is still in its infancy and is yet to be fully operationalised to judge its
merit and ability. However, it is conspicuous to note that people's participation/PRI’s
participation is not included as an integral part of this organizational structure.
Organisational Structure of the Watershed Development Programs under the
Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department (RDPR)
Area development programme wing is responsible for the watershed development projects
coming under the purview of the RDPR. These projects are implemented under various
programs such as Drought-prone Area Programme (DPAP), Integrated Wasteland
Development Programme (IWDP), and Western Ghats Development Programme (WGDP) by
the Zilla Panchayats through watershed associations. The Project Implementing Agency
(PIA) identified by a Zilla Panchayat could be a government department or NGO as the case
may be is assigned about 10 micro watersheds, each covering about 500 hectares. A
watershed development team is constituted to interact with the watershed associations and to
provide technical assistance in the planning and implementation of the watershed programs.
The residents of the area covered by the watershed are organized into self-help groups and
user groups.
This organizational structure is initiated in 1985 in line with the
recommendations of the Hanumantha Rao Committee. A marked change is in terms of
community involvement in the planning and implementation of the programme unlike in the
earlier arrangement, which was governed totally by line departments.
Key points/Hypothesis
It has been observed that people's participation and decentralization or programme
administration that is accounted for the success so far has been highly inadequate for
sustaining this development. The reason being that the programme has been proceeded too
fast by fulfilling the targets for completion of works without waiting for the required
institutions building and leadership formation at the grass-roots level.
This is an expected result with the existing bureaucratic ethos and the nature of our social
structure. It takes a lot of time for the bureaucracy to change their attitudes and to get
motivated to empower people and to delegate authority. Many village level conflicts and
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
interests between groups add to the problem of bringing them together in working for the
cause. These problems have to be tackled to bring about remedial measures.
Lack of training to the administrative personnel is seen as a major drawback. Awareness
building or imparting resource literacy, development of technical skills and re-orienting
motivations and attitudes of official and political functionaries at all levels towards the need
for empowering the people through decentralization has to be considered seriously. Although
training has been considered seriously after the implementation of the guidelines, experiences
have stressed on improving content and quality of training programs, by adequately taking
care of the changing requirements in the fields, to introduce an independent nodal agency at
the national level and by guaranteeing adequate funding.
There has been wide coverage of the programs in the state, but not many evaluation studies of
the existing projects are done. Programs like watershed development, which involves a
hierarchy of administration and communities at the grass-roots in highly varying agroclimatic and socio-economic conditions, requires mid-course corrections at varying degrees.
It has been suggested to have an institutional mechanism for research and quality evaluation
in this field.
It has been observed that the progress achieved in the state with respect to forestry and
horticultural sectors of the programme is not satisfactory.
It has been observed that in most districts, except in Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada,
Kodagu, Gulbarga and Belgaum the proportion or arable land treated to total arable land is
very high, whereas in most districts excluding Raichur, Bijapur and Dharwad the treatment of
non-arable land has been very low. In other words, there has been mainly the arable land
development under the DWDP. Partly, this has been explained by the fact that non-arable
development requires more investment per hectare and fairly long gestation period before
yielding returns, whereas arable land development gives relatively quicker returns and also
requires relatively smaller investment.
Mittemari watershed one of the successful watershed in Karnataka, year-wise yields were
compared to bench-mark yields, yields obtained between demonstration plot and farmers
fields and non-project area. The results showed that during drought year better yields were
obtained in project areas compared to non-project areas. In the case of demonstration plots,
where recommended dry farming technique is fully adopted indicated higher yield potential;
that is, farmers can obtain higher yields by following the recommended dry farming
The observation measures such as soil and water under DWDP as also better crop and land
use management can be expected to increase the water-table and moisture availability in the
watersheds. This has been prominent with the experience of Seethanadi watershed, where the
increase in the water table has enabled the farmers to tap the ground water through wells.
Area irrigated by wells increased in many watersheds in Bijapur and Shimoga. This indicates
that watershed development has led to improvement in moisture availability and ground
water table.
Participation of people in management was not given due emphasis/role in implementing the
programme. The Department played the major role in deciding on all aspects of watershed
management. Standardised packages were imposed on all farmers. Presently, the department
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
intends to actively involve farmers to choose the activity and decide about the suitability of
programs based on their needs. They even have plans of giving them the responsibility of
implementation, which may be expected to give results in terms of productivity,
sustainability, etc.
The funds available are insufficient to cover the whole area recognized for the watershed
programme. This is with reference to some programs specifically NWDPRA. Therefore the
government's activity in this respect remains scattered and incomplete.
There are some instances of overlapping of programs. This is mainly because the funds are
released through two different departments. Presently, after the watershed department is
formed, they intend to avoid such problems in the future.
There have been instances where post-project management is not determined resulting in
non-sustainability of the programme. This is because the programme largely involves a top
down approach rather than being planned and implemented through effective people's
involvement. It has been observed that wherever effective people's participation has been
involved, benefits from watershed development programs have been quite impressive.
Social forestry undertaken on common lands in the watershed has generally resulted in mono
species plantations. Mixed type of plantations is considered desirable from the viewpoint of
local community and ecology of the region as well as obtaining higher returns.
Increased production and commercialization of agriculture in watershed areas needs building
of appropriate marketing links and networks. This aspect has been neglected in watershed
development activities.
There have been instances where the projects implemented by NGOs adopting participatory
approach have performed well. They have also contributed to the process of decentralized
planning and decision making through the formation of community organizations.
Currently, there are no incentives or disincentives to encourage individual water users to
maximize water use efficiently and or productivity. In fact, many government policies have
the unintended effect of encouraging individuals and particularly farmers to be inefficient in
their water use. Although new ground water legislation is in the process of being ratified by
the Government of Karnataka, it may take some time before the effects of this legislation are
seen at the village level.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Realization on the part of the Government (Forest Department) that involvement of local
communities was an essential ingredient in their programs of forest
conservation/afforestation, explains the genesis of the Joint Forest Management in many parts
of the country including Karnataka. The Government of Karnataka passed its JFM resolution
on April 12, 1993. This is supported by a $.24 million 'Western Ghats Forestry Environment
Project' funded by the UK.
The first Village Forest Committee (VFC) in the state under JFM was constituted at
Talagadde village in Ankola Taluk of Uttara Kannada district on October 12, 1993. The
village surrounded by degraded forests comprised of 133 families belonging mainly to
'halakki vokkaliga tribe', who derived their livelihood from the surrounding forests by cutting
and selling firewood.
The number of village forest committees set up under this project upto September 1998 was
only 400, which compares poorly with more than 2000 set up in neighbouring Andhra
Pradesh in a shorter time.
The progress under the scheme has been rather slow due to several factors:
(i) Restriction of JFM to only 'degraded' areas, which form a small fraction of actual forest
used by local communities.
(ii) Problem of ensuring adequate incentives to locals.
(iii) Inadequate devolution of control to local communities.
(iv) Lack of enthusiasm among implementing staff.
(v) Inability of the JFM structure to distinguish between sections with different levels of
dependence on the forests.
For ensuring better results under the JFM, what is needed is a rapidly decreasing state control
and giving away the same to the local community for management. The state's role is not to
administer, but to empower the people so that they may take over the local responsibilities
(Chary and Vyasulu, 2000).
Key Points/Hypothesis
Although there have been many strong theoretical reasons in favour of JFM many practical
problems are envisaged during implementation of JFPM programs. Karnataka has also faced
similar situation. Based on the survey of literature and data, we may formulate a few
tentative hypotheses for further work. These are:
1. The programs adopt a sectoral approach with some sectors lagging far behind others in
initiating participatory management. The negative effect of this is particularly noticeable in
the case of forests; while forests try to persuade villagers to participate in protecting and
regenerating the forest, villagers may have more priority on getting loans, irrigation facilities
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
or some other inputs for agricultural development so that they can reduce their dependence on
forests for income.
The JFPM concept involves giving only degraded forest to the VFC. In areas where
there are no depleted forests, forests with high density are not involved in the programme. In
these areas, timber, NTFP and other forest produce are involved. The villagers are of the view
that KFD is not keen on forming the VFC since there is no degraded land in that area. They
feel that the NTFP contractors do not want the VFC to get the right over the good forest area.
Although the community is well-knit with good inter-dependencies amongst the
members, the community need not be suitable for forest management. Most Indian village
communities are having high economic differences and are divided socially. Therefore, it is
necessary to design the institution in a way that is suitable to proper implementation of JFM
Also, it is considered more efficient to assign certain basic minimum
entitlements and responsibilities to individual households and restrict the role of the village
collective institution to monitoring of these entitlements and responsibilities.
Over years, rural economies have changed more towards industrialization i.e., the
villagers are more integrated into the exchange economy, engaged in producing for larger
product markets and participate in larger and sectorally specialized labour markets. This has
resulted in lowering of the 'community feeling'. These changes are part of the system due to
technological changes, culture, economic institutions and politics. Therefore, in this sense,
there have been practical difficulties in implementing the JFM programme.
5. It has been observed from the research experience in Western ghats that socio-economic
variables (agricultural holdings, livestock, control over tree and grass resources, social status
and access to non-agricultural incomes) have direct influence on type and extent of forest
products consumed and demanded, the capacity of the household to invest in labour,
resources in forest protection or in technologies that reduce forest dependence. Therefore the
households who are better off are benefited. Hence, the concentration has to be not only on
shift of state control towards community control but also for equitable assignments.
The approach is spatially partial, that is, decentralization of resource ownership or
control is limited to only part of resource, the part which is physically in the poorest
condition, or socially the most difficult to manage for the particular department. With respect
of JFM, the programs are restricted to degraded forests or pursued more in protected forests
than in Reserve forests.
7. Coffee cultivation has increased encroachment of forest land. Conversion to agriculture
legal/illegal itself has caused immense deforestation in India. There have been conflicts in
this regard by some activists i.e., to concentrate on regularization of encroachments before
adoption of JFM, as they view it as means to evict poor or marginal farmers.
8. In certain forested regions, including most of the western ghats, the physical geography
and settlement patterns are such that the notion of a 'village community' is weaker than in
villages of the plains. Resource management is more individualistic or clan based at the
most. The transaction costs involved in bringing these individualistic villagers to manage the
forest communally would be highly unnecessary.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
9. In Uttara Kannada experience, at every stage, participation of women is poor - they are
not adequately involved in the PRA or micro-plan exercise. Given the socio-cultural
situation and the danger of marginalisation in JFPM, the KFD and NGOs should take extra
initiative to encourage women to participate. But there have been instances in other areas
where women are comparatively better aware of the programs and are participating.
More communities and castes are ignorant of the entire process. The problem lies
basically in viewing the village as a homogenous entity. Throughout the JFPM process there
is little attempt to include weaker sections that are forest dependent. In case where it is
recognized that the village is made up of different groups often with conflicting interests and
needs, the attempt is made to resolve this at the level of the village forest committees where
the dominant groups decide the priorities.
11. NGOs play an important role in initiating participatory management. NGOs have been
successful in many instances where JFPM are involved. However, they do face some
problems initially during implementation. The relationship of NGOs and government
departments has been full of twists and turns. At times the GoK works through NGOs to
reach the local people. But it would like the NGOs to do its bidding, and to function like a
subordinate office. NGOs sometimes resent this. The number of inquiries that have been
ordered against NGOs is an indicator of this tension.
Often, the government officials and NGOs join forces when it comes to marginalising
panchayats. The logic of this needs to be understood.
The introduction of JFPM in Uttara Kannada has been relatively recent. Very few NGOs
have got involved in the process. One of the reasons is that the NGOs do not have much
dealing with department staff and JFPM is seen as primarily a government programme.
Secondly NGOs already have set objectives and JFPM is an additional one, which is different
to integrate with their other activities. Thirdly, some NGOs focus on specific communities
whereas JFPM involves working with the village community as a whole.
In Kanara circle many VFCs were set up directly by the Forest Department, without the
initiative of the NGOs. But studies have indicated that community participation is better
where NGO action has preceded VFC formation. NGOs generally work with socially or
economically less advanced groups; there is a greater chance of the poor, landless etc.
involving themselves in the process.
The participation envisaged is more in execution than in planning. Village forest committees
usually have a forest department person as ex-officio secretary. They can generally be
recognized and derecognised only by the Forest Department. The department can veto
village management plans, but the communities often cannot obtain departmental plans.
Most of these have been state government programs implemented through the departmental
machinery. In some cases NGOs have been involved. In some situations, local committees
have been formed.
Some of this was done when the programs were designed in the late
1980s and early 1990s, with donors putting pressure for the participation of people, especially
women. But locally elected bodies, like the panchayats, have so far not been involved in this
process. There is even some debate about whether they should be involved at all.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Panchayat Raj Institutions in Karnataka 3
Without going into the history of political events that culminated in the assent of the
President of India to the Karnataka Zilla Parishads, Taluk Panchayat Samitis, Mandal
Panchayats and Nyaya Panchayat Bill, in July 1985 which was followed by elections for
Panchayats held in January 1987 that ushered in elected Panchayat Raj Institutions in
Karnataka, we prefer to highlight the salient and innovative features of this Act, as it is
considered even today as a landmark in the sphere of decentralized governance in
Notably, under this Act, the state government did divest itself of substantial powers and
functions in favour of sub-state institutions. The Act provided for the two-tier structure: Zilla
Parishad (ZP) at the district level and Mandal Panchayats (MP) for group of villages - with
direct elections to both bodies. A wide range of functions was entrusted to the ZPs. Besides
the overall coordination and integration of development schemes and preparation of the plan
for the development of the district, the ZPs were assigned specific responsibilities in areas of
agriculture, animal husbandry, welfare of the SCs and STs and the backward classes,
buildings and communications, education, public health, irrigation and ground water
resources, industries, horticulture, cooperation, fisheries, rural electrification and distribution
of essential commodities.
It is meaningful to note that in this wide range of responsibilities, quite a few of them
pertained to the domain of natural resources. Moreover substantial funds were earmarked for
the MPs under anti-poverty programs, which could, if so intended, be used for employment
generating programs such as soil conservation, etc. thus impacting on sustainable use of
natural resources.
Grama Sabha (GS) was given the statutory recognition. GS was required to select
beneficiaries under the anti-poverty programs and look into the activities of the Mandal
The ZPs did not have any power of taxation, while MPs had the usual power to levy property
tax, tax on vehicles and the like. The state government gave a per capita grant of Rs. 10 per
annum, three-fourths of which accrued to the MPs and the balance to the ZPs. It should be
said to the credit of the state government that with the exception of a lone provision in the
Act to supercede a ZP under extraordinary circumstances, the state government did not
reserve itself any powers of supervision and control. All the district level officers and the
staff of development departments functioned under the ZP.
Access of weaker sections to the PR institutions was made possible through 'reservation
principle' (25 per cent of directed members of the ZP were reserved for women and 18 per
cent of SCs and STs. The same reservation principle applied for the Mandal Panchayat too).
The write-up on this is drawn largely from T R Sathish Chandran 2000.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
Evaluation studies, carried two to three years after the PRIs started functioning from 1987,
reveal a positive picture of their performance on the whole though there were dark patches
here and there. There had been a good mobilization of local resources. Differences on
political party lines and caste composition had not stood in the way of implementing
development programs. Nevertheless PRIs did encounter several problems. To mention a
few :
1. Inability of members from weaker sections to occupy the seats of power.
2. Lack of financial autonomy.
3. Financial inadequacy.
4. Irregular and ineffective gram sabha meetings.
5. Absence of constitutional guarantee and permanency .
In 1992 when elections were due, the government (congress party) superceded the PRIs and
appointed administrators. With the passing of the Constitution 73rd Amendment Act, 1992,
the Karnataka Government enacted The Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993. Since its
enactment, it has been amended six times.
The 1993 Act provides for establishing a three-tier system of fully elected decentralized
governance at the village, taluk and district levels, each of which is to carry out its defined
functions in its area of jurisdiction covering all the subjects included in the Eleventh Schedule
of the Constitution. But these subjects are spelled out in two general terms with too much of
overlapping between different levels of panchayats making it vague for these bodies to
discharge their responsibilities in respect of these subjects.
Gram Panchayats can levy taxes on property, entertainment, vehicles, and charge fees on
markets and the like. Neither ZPs nor TPs have taxation powers but they can raise loans with
the permission of the government. The government may levy cesses on land revenue and
additional stamp duty, the proceeds of which will be handed over to GPs and TPs
respectively. Each GP is entitled for an annual grant of Rs. 1 lakh to meet electricity charges,
maintenance of water supply schemes, sanitation and other welfare activities. ZPs and TPs
will depend almost entirely on resource transfers by the state government for both
maintenance and development activities.
Members of the PRIs are to be duly elected - on a non-party basis at the GP level and on the
party basis at the other levels - under the supervision of the state election commission which
is to be appointed as per the law. At all levels of PRIs there is reservation of seats for SCs,
STs in proportion to their population, but not less than 18 per cent of the seats, and one-third
of the seats are to be reserved for backward classes. Also one-third of the number of seats
from all categories are reserved for women. Reservation principle is extended to the office of
the chairpersons of all the three-tier governments and on the same scale for the elected
PRIs are envisaged to perform both civic and development functions. They would have
finances devolved for these purposes by the states and the quinquennially appointed state
finance commissions will review their financial requirements. The first state finance
commission appointed as per the provision provided for in the PRI Act of 1993 submitted its
report in July 1996. The commission recommended the higher rate of finances to GPs by
fixing these rates across the tiers at 40: 25: 35. The state government is yet to achieve these
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
ratios in the allocation plan. The Second State Finance Commission is appointed recently
and its recommendations are awaited.
Under the new PRI Act Karnataka, has vested administrative control of local officials in the
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the ZP who is not under control of the local elected body
as was the case in the earlier law. The CEO has powers defined in the recent law to refer to
the state government, decisions of the ZP, which in his opinion are not in tune with the law.
Annual confidential reports of the officials working in the PRIs which should serve as critical
instruments in ensuring accountability of these officials are still written by the line
departments without PRI inputs. This is a definite setback when we recall that in the 1983
Act officials functioned under the control of PRIs. Bureaucracy has retained effective control
over the implementation of almost all government programs and schemes and remains
independent of and is not accountable to PRIs. It is obvious, therefore, that there is a long
way to go to realize administrative decentralization of the state.
Nearly 40 per cent of the state's development budget is transferred to ZPs after the budget is
passed each year. Ironically, while the ZP may discuss the budget, it cannot act if the CEO
disagrees with its decisions and decides to refer the matter to the state government. Though
funds are routed through the local bodies, they do not enjoy any leverage in operating them
because administrative procedures for re-apportioning, approval, etc. are complex and at a
level above the district. Moreover the size of funds available to panchayats for their
legitimate needs is so small, irregular and inflexible. There is little by way of untied funds at
any level of the panchayat system, thereby restricting the scope for using it according to local
priorities. In the circumstances, it is no surprise that we are far away from the aspect of
financial decentralization and important aspect in realizing the goal of decentralized
Even in the area of political decentralization, PRIs encounter many hurdles. For instance,
MPs, MLAs and MLCs have the sanction under the 1993 Act to be ex-officio members in
both Zilla and Taluk Panchayats. Their presence in the deliberations of PRIs because of their
clout and political status leaves hardly any scope for the elected representatives to express
and assert their views. Secondly, state civil servants and politicians in power nominate the
district planning committee, which is expected to play a key role in evolving the district
development plan, possibly without taking the PRIs into confidence. Hence, in the sphere of
political decentralization also PRIs do lag behind.
On the top of all these, in recent years there seems to be a tendency on the part of the state
government to marginalia PRIs through setting up autonomous bodies that bypass
panchayats. Area development bodies like the Hyderabad-Karnataka Development Board,
Malnad Development Board and Maidan Development Board continues to function. Their
functions overlap with those of the PRIs.
Some Amendments to the Act
The demand of the newly elected Adhyakshas of ZPs who took office in 1995 to restore the
pre-1993 position of declaring them as the executive heads of their respective organizations
was conceded and the Act was amended suitably.
Further, in the light of the recommendations of the Nayak Committee, comprehensive
changes were effected in 1997. Some of these are:
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
the powers, which had been entrusted to the Divisional Commissioner, Deputy
Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner (removal of office bearers of GPs,
dissolution of GPs, suspension of resolutions, etc.) were withdrawn. While some
routine functions were transferred to the executive officer of the TP and Chief
Executive Officer of the ZP, the more important powers were vested in the ZPs (in
respect of GPs) and the government (in case of ZPs and TPs),
From the supervisory angle, a hierarchical relationship is established between the
three-tiers; the ZP has been given the power to enquire into complaints of nonperformance of duty by the TP and give directions for due performance. The TP has a
similar role vis-à-vis the GPs.
Obligatory functions have been described for the PRIs for the first time, but the
obligation is subject to the availability of funds!
The Adhyaksha of the ZP is made the chairman of the District Planning Committee.
A variety of functions relating to the electoral process is entrusted to the state election
Commission, earlier these were with the government or designated officials.
Recent Developments
Unlike earlier set up in which the ZP played a key role, the allocation of programs and
activities in the government notification given in July 1994 virtually shifted the primacy to
the TP leaving the ZP primarily as a coordinating, planning and monitoring body. With due
deference to the recommendation made by the Nayak Committee to review the allocation of
functions between the different levels of PRIs and the State Finance Commission, in a way
supporting this recommendation, the state government notified in September 1998 substantial
changes to the inter-tier distribution (specially as between ZP and TP) and transferred a few
more activities from the state sector to the panchayats. Apart from rectifying some
anomalies, which existed earlier, the new dispensation makes for a better balance in the
distribution of power and harmonization of activities at the different levels.
A more significant recent development has been the issue of an ordinance in February 1999
reducing the number of GP in the state to roughly half the present number. Under the
Ordinance the population limits of a GP will be raised to 10,000 to 16,000 as against the
present 5,000 to 7,000. For the hilly areas the minimum population will be 6,000 instead of
2,500. The reason advanced by the government for this change is that: under the earlier
pattern the GPs were too small to be viable. They had limited financial resources and
manpower and were not capable of becoming effective instruments of development.
The Panchayat Act and the Reality
That there has been an annoying gap between what is envisaged in the Karnataka Panchayat
Act 1993 (and its amendments) through its provisions facilitating decentralized governance
and the ground reality is effectively brought out by perceptive and empirical studies
undertaken by Vyasulu and his colleagues. (Vyasulu 2000 a, Indira, 2000 a, Indira,
2000 b, Indira, 2000). We prefer to dwell upon the observations and findings of these studies
at some length as they effectively bring out the problems that lie ahead on the road to
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
decentralization, with their inherent implications for natural resource management too, by
These studies sadly discovered that the priority and design of schemes to be implemented at
the local levels were decided at higher levels. Even if schemes were not to be designed
above, local bodies did not possess the required expertise and their own staff under their own
control (not the state government personnel on deputation and under government control).
The elected local bodies were not empowered with meaningful administrative and financial
Even on mundane matters like the size of funds available with the PRIs, more so on a time
trend basis; the information was awfully lacking. Confusion about the size, source and type
of funds (tied and untied) available with the PRIs got confounded by the complexity of the
accounting system, designed to suit the requirements of the state governments and not the
panchayats. Multiplicity of agencies/schemes working or financing a single development
item made it cumbersome to get an idea of what was being spent on that item in a district. At
times, even if money was available for a particular developmental need, a long list of
departments operating in this sphere - each one of them bound by rigid rules and regulations resulted, by the end of the year in money being unspent, under spent or carried-over to the
next year.
It was intriguing to observe the big difference between the outlays in the PRIs
budgets and the actual expenditures as certified by the Accountant General.
There is little by way of untied funds at any level of the panchayat system. Therefore, a large
chunk of whatever money is available with PRIs is on account of "approved" schemes by the
government. What does this imply? The purpose for which funds are made available to the
PRIs is "approved" (read: decided) by the bureaucracy at the higher level.
The capacity of PRI members in technical and financial matters is low and needs to be
strengthened so that they understand the nuances and implications of budget/plan preparation
in ensuring local felt needs and priorities built into it.
Information on natural resources among others, is hardly available with the PRIs or more
appropriately 'is not made available to them'. To elaborate, the government of India under the
programme 'Natural Resource Data Management System' has collected information about
soil, water, roads, etc. in a simple-easy- to- use format. But many a time, the concerned
departments treat this data as 'confidential' and hardly share it with others.
It is the state government that is responsible for the finances of the local bodies. Even today
many of the powers that have been given to local bodies are 'delegated powers' and the state
government continues to retain the overall responsibility. This means that suitable
arrangement for the transfer of funds at their use become necessary although in part, the
setting up of the state finance commission has looked this after.
The powers, authority and responsibilities of the three-levels of panchayats are laid down in
Article 243 G, 243H, 243I and 243Z of the Amendments. For finances, the key Article is
243H according to which the "legislature of a state may, by law, ........." authorize the
panchayats. Few things are mandatory in these Articles. They leave a great deal of
discretion to the state in what is to be passed on to the Panchayats.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
A Study of ZP budgets in two districts of Karnataka (Dharwad and Bangalore Rural) has
shown that often the money allocated is not spent. Why so? Money is allocated to
panchayats in different schemes and can only be spent in specific ways after specific
approvals. There is no flexibility in the system. If a particular scheme is for some reason not
relevant in a district, the money cannot be channeled elsewhere it lapses. If the amount to be
spent is over a certain modest limit, then approval has to be sought from the competent
authority, which is often at the state level. This takes time and leads to time over-run and
then cost over-runs. Thus the local body is a channel for directing expenditure, but it has no
It is also revealing to note that in many cases the bulk of the money spent by the government
through panchayats (say for instance expenditure on primary education) is on account of
salaries, leaving very little for the development in the real sense of the term. To view it
differently, a major chunk of expenditure in a district is undertaken by the departments (read:
state government) outside the purview of local elected bodies. In this situation, we cannot,
rather should not draw conclusion about what is being spent in a district from the panchayat
finance figures.
In view of the foregoing account, it is no surprise that we are far away from the aspect of
financial decentralization, which is a significant component in realizing the goal of
decentralized governance.
An empirical study which looked into the power, patronage and accountability in the
panchayats of Karnataka (Inbanathan, 2000) is critical of the manner in which PRIs function.
According to this study, although panchayats are provided the opportunity for the widest
section of rural society to participate in local governance, social conditions, however, ensure
that only a section of the village people actually acquire and wield power. Political power
built through patronage, political experience and contacts enables a small number to
dominate the functioning of the panchayats. Further, the relatively weak democratic ethos
found in rural areas ensure that to most representatives the concept of accountability was
either virtually unknown or ignored in practice. Thus, the study concluded local governance
through the panchayats is not always a manifestation of highest forms of democratic
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
A striking feature that has governed the planning and designing of projects in natural resource
management, till recently, has been the primacy accorded to the engineering/technical
aspects, to the neglect of aspects bearing linkages between class, caste, community, gender
and natural resources on the one hand and livelihood systems on the other. In the
circumstances, due attention was not paid in NRM the issues such as: access, control,
distribution (sharing of benefits) by different segments/sections of the society. This lapse got
more serious in the context of natural resources becoming 'scarcer', becoming 'commercial
propositions' and being judged solely in terms of 'economic returns on investment' (for an
articulated and effective elucidation of these arguments, especially from the point of view of
gender perspective in the management of natural resources, see Poornima Vyasulu, 2000). In
other words there is no conscious or serious attempt on the part of the government to
internalize the linkage effects between class, caste, community, gender and natural
resources/livelihood systems in the planning and designing of NR projects.
In the recent years, there is an attempt by the government to make good this lapse to some
extent. But it seems to be happening not so much on account of government's own
willingness, but more due to donor-driven dimensions.
Although the PR act of 1993, through reservation for women, SCs/STs and backward classes
has opened up new opportunities and space for them to voice their grievances, several sociocultural constraints still operate as inhibiting factors in this direction. 'As long as the
underprivileged are not empowered to control the resource base, it is difficult to achieve an
equitable, sustainable and efficient use of natural resources, people-empowerment is the key
to good management. It is here that the local government in the form of panchayats becomes
important'. (Vyasulu and Gadgil 2000).
Equitable, sustainable and efficient use of natural resources is rendered complex by the state
intervention to step-up resource use through 'modern sector'. This has tended to:
1. Transfer resources from weaker segments of the society to those better of
2. Encourage exhaustive use of renewable resources
3. Encourage inefficient resource use.
A few examples in support of these findings are in order.
1. Indiscriminate and wasteful use of electric power due to non-metering of the consumption
of power.
2. Excessive use of water, inappropriate cropping pattern from the social point of view
leading to water logging and salinity in the drought prone districts like Bellary and
Raichur in the Tungabhadra basin mainly due to unrealistically low price of water.
3. Supply of bamboo to the paper industry at a purely nominal rate of Rs. 1.50 per tonne,
while the prevailing market price was well over Rs 3000 per tonne.
It is imminent therefore that the state takes a close look of its policy on subsidies affecting the
use of natural resources.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
While subjects to be dealt by PRIs at various levels are identified under the new act, there is
no serious effort on the part of the government to devolve necessary powers and resources to
PRIs, which makes it difficult to realise the goal of decentralized governance. It is intriguing
that the government seems to bypass the PRIs, despite their being statutory and popular
representative institutions in implementing projects having relatively large funds. Donors
appear to be in collusion with the government in this scheme of things on the premise that the
PRIs are riddled with party politics, corruption and do not adequately represent different
stakeholders/interest groups. Accordingly, parallel institutions like village committees, user
associations and regional boards/corporations, etc set up, more often than not at the
governments initiative, guidance, supervision and control, allowing these '‘blessed'’
institutions to hijack the powers, resources and functions of the PRIs. This duality in
determining the role and functions of parallel institutions vis-a-vis PRIs has become a source
of ambiguity and tension between them, amounting to a self-defeating exercise in
establishing genuine decentralized governance. It is high time the government realized that
the problems and weaknesses pointed towards PRIs are not peculiar to them but are also very
much pertinent to the larger system in which they are located.
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
1. Coastal Region: The coastal region is a long narrow belt lying between Western Ghats and
Arabian sea. It is about 30 km wide and 320 km long. This region has many rivers, isolated
peaks and detached range of hills. The average altitude of the coastal plain is 75 m, but in
some places it comes to even 150 m. The Coastal Region receives very heavy rainfall
because it comes under the effect of South West Monsoon. The average annual rainfall
exceeds 250 cm. This region has humid climate. The total period of rainy season differs
from five months in the north to seven months in the South. Some of the prominent rivers
flowing in this region are Kali, Aghanashini, Bedthi, Sharavathi, Varahi and Netravathi.
Alluvial soils are found in the plain and laterite on hill slopes. Although there is ample water
during the rainy season but it is not enough to provide water to Rabi and Summer crops.
2. Malnad Region: The Malnad belt is situated East of the Coastal Region. It is about 640
km long from North to South and has an average width of 50 to 65 km from East to West.
This is basically forest area and hilly country. Most of the east flowing rivers in the
peninsula rise in this region. The rainfall in this region is very heavy and also moderate
ranging from 635 cm on the hills to 100 cm in the East. The soils are laterite in character.
There is good coverage of forests in this region. Paddy grown on terraced fields is the major
cereal crop of this region. The other important crops are coffee, arecanut and coconut
3. Northern Maidan: The Northern Maidan is an extensive plateau with an average elevation
of about 610m. This area is endowed with limestones, granites, sand, stones, shales and
basalts. Most of the area lies in the semi-arid region of the state and has a monotonous
plateau landscape with base saturated soils in the open treeless fields. The climate is dry and
warm throughout. Rainfall is very scanty and is highly unreliable both in magnitude and
distribution. The average rainfall is about 60 cm. Some of the major rivers are about 60 cm.
Some of the major rivers of this region are Krishna, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Bhima,
Dudhganga, Vedavathi, Kumudavathi, Hiranyakeshi and Markendeya. This region has a
rolling topography with many small and big streams that flow for short duration during
monsoons. Most of the months in the year are dry. The soils in the region are mostly black
cotton soils and brown clayey loams in the valleys and brown murram soils on the ridges.
4. Southern Maidan: This is a rolling plateau made up of archaean complex of rocks. The
rainfall decreases and its variability increases from West to East. There are many tanks in
this region and also small and big streams in this region. The annual average rainfall is about
70 cm. The 3 major rivers are the Tungabadra, Cauvery and Pennar. Two rivers excepting
Pennar rise in the Western Ghats and drain into the Bay of Bengal. The area is covered with
predominantly red sandy loams. In the North- Eastern side there are black soils and also
mixture of black soils and red soils are seen.
Agro Climatic Zones
According to the National Commission on Agriculture India have 62 rainfall patterns out of
which 14 patterns are from Karnataka. Rainfall cannot be the only base to determine the
entire crop production situation. Therefore the division of Agro Climatic zones will give a
better picture. Department of Agriculture and the University of Agricultural Sciences have
divided Karnataka State into 10 Agro Climatic zones. Four factors have been considered in
defining agro-climatic zones. (1) Rainfall pattern quantum and distribution (2) Soil types,
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
texture, depth and physico-chemical properties (3) Elevation and topography (4) Major crops
and vegetation.
Previously the state was divided into 8 agro climatic zones and it cut across taluks. Presently
to a large extent the division of 10 Agro climatic zones considers Taluka as an administrative
unit for research and development. The taluk boundaries are not touched in re-arranging
Agro-climatic zones.
North Eastern Transition Zone (7 taluks)
Bidar district, Aland and Chincholi taluks of the Gulbarga district come under this zone. The
annual rainfall ranges from 830-890 mm. Between the months of February and August 63
percent of the rainfall is received. This is mainly a Kharif zone. The major areas have an
elevation ranging between 800-900 meters. The soils are shallow to medium black, clay in
major areas and lateritic in the remaining areas. The principal crops grown are pulses, jowar,
bajra, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane.
North-Eastern Dry Zone- (11 taluks)
Devadurg, Manvi and Raichur taluks of Raichur district and all the taluks of Gulbarga district
exclusive of Aland and Chincholi come under this zone. The annual rainfall ranges from
633.2 to 806.6 mm. The months from September to December receive 55 percent of the
rainfall. This is mainly a rabi zone. In all taluks the elevation ranges from 300-450 meters.
The soils of the zone are mainly deep to very deep black clay in major areas and shallow to
medium black in minor pockets. The major crops grown are Rabi, Jowar, Bajra, Pulses,
Oilseeds and Cotton.
Northern Dry zone (35 taluks)
This zone covers entire Bijapur, Bagalkot, Bellary, Koppal districts and parts of Raichur,
Gadag, Dharwad and Belgaum districts. The annual rainfall ranges from 464.5 to 785.7 mm.
The months of September and December receive about 52 percent of annual rainfall. It is
predominantly a rabi zone. The elevation is between 450-800 meters in 26 taluks and 800900 meters in the rest of the taluks. Major areas are covered with deep black clays and the
soils are shallow. The prominent crops grown are Rabi, Jowar, Groundnut, Cotton, Maize,
Bajra, Wheat, Sugarcane and Tobacco.
Central Dry Zone (17 Taluks)
This zone comprises entire Chitradurga district and parts of Davanagere, Hassan,
Chickmagalur and Tumkur districts. The annual rainfall received ranges between 453.5 to
717.7 mm out of which more than 55 percent is received in pre-monsoon and monsoon
seasons. This is mainly a Kharif zone. Major areas have an elevation ranging between 800900 meters and 450-800 meters in the remaining areas. The principal crops grown are Jowar,
Ragi, Rice, Pulses and Oil seeds.
Eastern Dry Zone (24 Taluks)
Whole of Bangalore (Rural) and Bangalore (Urban), Kolar and parts of Tumkur come under
this zone. The annual rainfall ranges from 679.1 to 888.9 mm. More than 50 percent of the
Panchayati Raj and Natural Resources Management: Karnataka Situation Analysis and Literature Review
rainfall received in pre-monsoon and monsoon seasons. It is mainly a kharif zone. The
elevation is 800-900 meters in major areas and 900-1500 meters in the remaining areas.
Major areas are covered with red loamy soils and are laterite in the remaining areas. Major
crops grown are Ragi, Rice, Maize, Pulses, Mulberry and Oil seeds.
Southern Dry Zone (18 taluks)
This zone covers parts of Mysore, Tumkur and 7 taluks of Mandya district, 1 taluk of Hassan
district and entire Chamarajanagar district. The annual rainfall ranges from 670.6 to 888.6
mm of which more than 50 percent is received in the Kharif season. This is a kharif zone. In
the major areas the elevation is 800-900 meters and 450-800 meters in the remaining areas.
Major areas are covered with red sandy loamy soils and the remaining areas are covered with
black soil. The major crops grown are Rice, Ragi, Pulses, Sugarcane and other millets.
Southern Transition Zone (14 Taluks)
This zone consists of parts of Hassan, Chickmagalur, Shimoga, Mysore district and a small
portion of Tumkur district. The annual rainfall ranges from 611.7 to 1053.9 mm. During the
pre-monsoon and monsoon months, more than 60 percent of the rainfall is received. This is
also mainly a Kharif zone. The elevation is 800-900 meters in major areas, 900-1500 meters
in some parts and 450-800 meters in the remaining parts. Major areas are covered with red
sandy loam soils and red loamy in the rest of the areas. The principal crops grown are Rice,
Ragi, Pulses, Jowar and Tobacco.
Northern Transition Zone (14 Taluks)
This zone comprises parts of Belgaum, Haveri, Gadag and Dharwad districts. The annual
rainfall ranges from 619.4 to 1303.2 mm. In the pre-monsoon and monsoon periods, this
zone receives 61 percent of rainfall. This is also a prominently Kharif zone. The elevation in
the major areas is 800-900 meters and 450-800 meters in the remaining areas. The soils are
equally distributed between medium black clay and red sandy loam. The major crops grown
are Rice, Jowar, Groundnut, Pulses, Sugarcane and Tobacco.
Hilly Zone (22 Taluks)
This zone consists of parts in Uttara Kannada, Belgaum, Shimoga, Chickmagalur, Haveri,
Kodagu and one taluk of Hassan district. The annual rainfall received ranges from 904.4 to
3691.1 mm. 75 percent of the rainfall is received during kharif season. The elevation in the
major areas is 800-900 meters and in the remaining areas 450-800 meters. Major areas are
covered with soils of red clay loam. The principal crops grown are Rice and pulses.
Coastal Zone (13 Taluks)
Some parts of Uttara Kannada, whole of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts come under
this zone. The annual rainfall ranges from 3,010.9 to 4,694.4 mm. 80 percent of the rainfall
is received during the monsoon season. The major areas have an elevation less than 300
meters and 450 to 800 meters in the remaining areas. The soils covering these areas are red
lateritic and coastal alluvial. The prominent crops grown are Rice, pulses and sugarcane
(Karnataka Agriculture- A profile- April 2000).
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