Mangaluru, May 27, 2019: River Nethravathi, the lifeline of Dakshina Kannada district, is parched beyond all imagination, warns Environmental activist and Sahyadri Samrakshana Sanchaya Convener Dinesh Holla.
An well known trekker in the western ghats, Holla said his recent trekking expeditions in Western Ghats had exposed him to disturbing images of inadequate flow of water in the tributaries of River Nethravathi.
Holla says while trekking in Mattikolu forests in April he was shocked to find the perennial River Kapila (one among the seven tributaries of River Nethravathi) reduced to a dry riverbed.
“Shishila-Byrapura road project (connecting Chitradurga to Mangaluru) passing through Mattikolu forests when implemented will dry up the river for sure,” said Holla.
A few days ago, Holla along with other greens had gone trekking to Bidirutala, a hamlet nestled in the foothills of Charmadi Ghats.
Holla shares a special relationship with the village and its residents as he has been trekking to Bidirutala for the past 24 years.
The village surrounded by hills like Dodderi Betta, Hosmane Gudda, Soppina Gudde and Bale Gudda, depends on Mruthyunjaya river, an important tributary of River Nethravathi, emerging from Madhugundi hill.
Holla says he was taken aback when villagers showed the the pipe, drawing water from the Mruthyunjaya river with the help of gravity, without water for the first time in 24 years.
“I could not believe my eyes and asked Meenakshiamma if the pipe drawing water from the stream was choked with sand. But the villagers told me that the pipe was not choked as the river itself had dried up,” Holla said and added that the villagers were keen on being rehabilitated from Bidirutala. In addition to water scarcity, the conflict with wild animals, including elephant looking for food and water, had intensified, he said.
“We also saw that other tributaries like Aniyoor river, emerging from Balurgudde near Kottigehara in Charmadi Ghat and Kempuhole, emerging from Kaginere (Bettakumbri forest) had dried up. The slow death of tributaries had begun four years ago due to Yettinahole river diversion project, encroachment of forest land by resorts, hunting and other illegal activities inside the forest.”
The razing of hills for the Yettinahole project and destruction of grasslands in Shola forests (by setting them on fire) have resulted in massive soil erosion, landslides and floods.
The intricate ecosystem in the catchment areas, which was ensuring the flow of water in the tributaries round-the-year, had been damaged, Holla said.
“The District In-charge Minister U T Khader mocks our concern but does not join us for a public debate on how the river diversion project was turning the tributaries and in turn River Nethravathi barren.”
“It is not only the aquatic life depending on these tributaries or the river but also fishermen who will end up paying a heavy price when 437 tmc of water would stop flowing down from the western ghats,” he warned.
Sahyadri Samrakshana Sanchaya Convener Dinesh Holla said the elected representatives from the district, including the MP, are from BJP. The government at the Centre is also being headed by BJP. “So, does BJP posses the political will to scrap projects on Nethravathi?” Holla asked.