Catchment areas of major rivers in danger

Environmentalists have called for highest protection of catchment areas of three major rivers — Cauvery, Tunga and Bhadra in the districts of Kodagu, Hassan, Shivamogga and Chikkamagaluru, rather than diverting west-flowing rivers to east. Bringing water from far-off areas to Bengaluru by destroying Western Ghats is neither feasible nor sustainable in the long run, they said in response to expert opinion sought by Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar for effective and better management of Karnataka’s water resources.

Further, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study. With continuing deforestation, change in land use and conversion of plantation lands, it has had an adverse effect on inflows and outflows. The assistance of a prestigious institution like Indian Institute of Science should be availed for a time-bound assessment before it is too late, they added.

Well-known environmental expert Col C P Muthanna said, “The entire district of Kodagu is catchment for Cauvery, however, there is no regulation on conversion of coffee/paddy/forest lands for commercial use. Linear projects like power lines have resulted in the uprooting of 60,000 trees while multi-lane highways in both forest and private lands have taken away 3 lakh trees. In fact, the 2030 CDP for Madikeri city proposes a three-fold increase, which is a huge change in land use. This CDP should be reviewed as it would seriously jeopardize water flows to Cauvery. The fragile ecosystem of Kodagu should be kept free from such projects by regulating land conversions, stopping felling of trees and also start ‘payment for ecological services’ to people living in upland areas.”

Yettinahole and Tunga Lift Irrigation projects are one of the biggest blunders committed by the state as it has already resulted in felling of lakhs of trees, said Sahadev Shivapura, Paschima Ghatta Jaagruti Vedike. Encroachment of forests being rampant in the catchment areas of Bhadra river in N R Pura, Tarikere and Bhadravati taluks has adversely affected the water flows, says G Veeresh, activist.

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