Why a well dry­ing up has Ben­galuru-My­suru wor­ried

At its source, wells are dry­ing up as swathes of for­est lie sub­merged by dams or cut down for rail and power lines

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Aravind.HM@ times­group.com dis­trict Talakaveri Kr­ish­nara­jasagara (KSR) dam

My­suru: It’s only once a year that the priests of the Kave­ri­amma tem­ple at Talakaveri, the source of river Cau­very in Kodagu (Coorg), use wa­ter from the holy pond, or kund­like — the an­nual fes­ti­val when the river re­vives and bub­bles up as a spring. The teerthob­hava fes­ti­val is about five months away, but priests have al­ready started draw­ing wa­ter from the kund­like be­cause the open well that serves the tem­ple and thou­sands of daily pil­grims, has gone dry.

It’s never run dry be­fore, says chief priest T S Narayanach­ar. “This place had plenty of wa­ter be­cause of the for­est. Now pil­grims have to buy wa­ter,” he says. Deforestat­ion, ir­ri­ga­tion and agri­cul­tural projects have swal­lowed the forests of the West­ern Ghats, source of most rivers in south In­dia, in­clud­ing the Cau­very.

The river dry­ing up at the source means wa­ter flow to the Kr­ish­nara­jasagar (KRS) dam near My­suru has de­creased steadily. This im­pacts wa­ter sup­ply to My­suru, Mandya, Ben­galuru and the en­tire Cau­very basin cov­er­ing more than 80,000sqkm across Kar­nataka and Tamil Nadu.

Large swathes of for­est have been sub­merged by dams or hacked away for rail­way and power lines over the last few years, and rain­fall has been de­creas­ing steadily over the last four years ( see box). The dis­trict is show­ing signs of the drought that has al­ready turned dry the plains of Shiva­mogga and Chikka­m­a­galuru. “Habi­tat ma­nip­u­la­tion of the West­ern Ghats in the name of devel­op­ment, in­clud­ing ir­ri­ga­tion, deforestat­ion and ex­pan­sion of farm prac­tices has led to re­duced Talakaveri is lo­cated near

Brah­ma­giri hill, 48km from Madik­eri, Kodagu

Avg rain­fall is

120 inches

a year head­quar­ters of in the West­ern Ghats in Kar­nataka It’s the source of

one of In­dia’s largest rivers, the Cau­very,

which serves lakhs in Kar­nataka, Tamil Nadu, Ker­ala & Puducherry Ef­forts to draw tourists to Kodagu is di­rectly linked to deforestat­ion to make way for re­sorts — rain­fall and con­se­quently, re­duced in­flow in the Cau­very,” said P M Muthanna, mem­ber of con­ser­va­tion ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tion Wildlife First. The cur­rent short­age of drink­ing wa­ter in Kodagu is a warn­ing about the ef­fect of habi­tat de­struc­tion, he noted.

Con­struc­tion of three dams — Harangi on the My­suru-Kodagu bor­der, He­ma­vathi the near My­suru is rac­ing to­wards its dead stor­age level 2 months be­fore mon­soon at Gorur in Has­san dis­trict and Chak­li­hole near Kushal­na­gar in Kodagu — sub­merged vast tracts of for­est area in Kodagu. In the 1950s and 1960s, lakhs of trees were felled for tim­ber. The im­pact is be­ing felt now.

Ground­wa­ter util­i­sa­tion has shot up due to tourism. Per capita con­sump­tion of drink­ing wa­ter has dou­bled in the dis­trict. In 2016-17, 30 lakh tourists vis­ited Kodagu, while the dis­trict pop­u­la­tion is a mere 5.6 lakh.

Kodagu Ho­tel Own­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent B R Na­gen­dra Prasad said the hospi­tal­ity and tourism sec­tor has grown rapidly in the past decade. About 200 ho­tels and 40 re­sorts have been set up in the dis­trict, he said, as a re­sult of which wa­ter us­age, es­pe­cially on week­ends, is high. Al­most all ho­tels have their own borewells, he said. Tourism as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Ja­gan­nath con­firmed that about 30 lakh tourists visit the dis­trict ev­ery year; there are 561 reg­is­tered home­s­tays. and more Dry­ing up of the KSR dam (pic be­low) im­pacts wa­ter sup­ply to My­suru, Mandya, Ben­galuru and the en­tire Cau­very basin that spans over 80,000sqkm across four states than 2,500 unregister­ed home­s­tays as well.

Manoj Ku­mar, chief con­ser­va­tor of forests, Kodagu, said the change in land use from agri­cul­ture to tourism also af­fected wa­ter lev­els. “Kodagu has about 32% for­est cover but the Cau­very catch­ment area mainly con­sists of pri­vate and rev­enue lands. Sadly, in many of these ar­eas, the rev­enue depart­ment is al­low­ing con­ver­sion of land from agri­cul­ture to com­mer­cial use with­out con­trol. This should be stopped,” he said.

“Wet­lands, which in­clude paddy fields and marshes, are cru­cial to the life and health of our rivers. If the wet­lands dry out, so do the rivers. Un­for­tu­nately, paddy fields are be­ing con­verted for com­mer­cial pur­poses and hous­ing lay­outs are com­ing up on the eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive lands,” said Madik­eri res­i­dent and physi­cian Dr San­jeev Singh, who is part of the Save Cau­very Cam­paign.

In­puts from G Ra­jen­dra in Madik­eri and K R Ra­jen­dra Ku­mar in Mandya

K A R N A T Madik­eri A My­suru K A Coim­bat­ore Be­galuru Mandya Erode T N Salem AM A D I U L Thiru­varur

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