Uthishta supports the Kumudavathi River Rejuvenation Project

published on August 23, 2013

Kumudavathi and Arkavathi were the two rivers supplying water to the mega city of Bangalore till a decade ago, before the Karnataka govt started utilizing Kaveri water for Bangalore’s needs. This switching was forced by the death of both the former rivers. Various human interventions like large scale deforestation, sand mining, unscientific urbanization, disruption of water flow contours, filling of marsh lands, non-maintenance of water storage systems in villages, large scale plantations of environmentally unfriendly trees like Eucalyptus and Acacia etc all contributed to this disaster.

The impact of such a change was far and wide as it affected the livelyhood of millions of farmers living on the banks of these two rivers. It changed the pattern of village lives. From farming which is the back bone of our economy, people are being forced to migrate to cities in search of labour. Farmers are forced to convert agricultural lands to plantations. Even there are inter-state disputes on the issue of sharing of Kaveri water. Tamil Nadu govt sees it as less water being given to it’s farmers as the water is being diverted for satisfying the ever increasing demands of Bangalore city. As days pass by, the drought situation in the villages can go worse and can trigger serious socio economic disasters. The only solution is to stop the unscientific approach towards the management of precious resources like water.

With this problem in mind, Govt of India had initiated a project to study the health of rivers with the help of satellite technology provided by ISRO. A separate department was launched under the leadership of a senior scientist Mr Lingaraju. They have made extensive maps of the watershed areas of various rivers of Karnataka. River Kumudavathi was one of them for which detailed study was conducted. Based on this study, the team came up with recommendations as to what should be done to arrest this problem. It included desilting of traditional water storage facilities in villages, large scale planting of trees, contruction of check dams and recharge wells on the course of tributaries of the rivers etc. But unfortunately like in the case of many such projects, this extensive report too didn’t see the light of the day. Politicians were too eager to go for other expensive and fancy alternatives like the Reverse Osmosis water plants on sea shores etc.

This year, Kumudavathi project report was brought to the notice of Sri Sri Ravishankarji who developed an instant interest in it. As he has already launched a new movement of youths “Volunteers For Better India” with a slogan “spend one hour per week for the nation”, he readily agreed to take up this project as one of the first such attempts. He has directed hundreds of his followers and volunteers of VFBI to join hands in this project. Mr Lingaraju who is now retired from the govt service offered to volunteer for this project which is expected to take three years to produce result. He along with many NGOs re-launched ‘Rejuvenate River Kumudavathi’ project in April this year. They have identified about 280 villages which falls in the watershed area of the river. Detailed maps are available and the work is going on as per well thought out and scientifically prepared plans.

As part of this effort, on every weekend hundreds of volunteers from Bangalore city drive down to selected villages and engage in various water management activities. They plant trees in large numbers, help local volunteers to take care of them, clean the village ponds and wells, construct dozens of check dams and recharge wells and so on. It has released a new energy and enthusiasm among the villages. Local media started giving publicity to their activities. Art of Living Foundation is utilizing these new contacts in villages for organizing medical camps and other awareness programs too. Some of the big companies in Bangalore like Philips and Infosys got involved through their Corporate Social Responsibility departments and adopted villages for such activities.

Responding to the call of the society, Uthishta, the Bangalore based social service organization of predominantly Malayalees from IT companies too jumped in to the fray offering support to this project. Uthishta volunteers took over the work in the village called Mahimapura which is 40 Km north east of Bangalore. Using manual effort as well as the service of a hired JCB, Uthishta managed to dig up close to four hundred pits for planting trees. The volunteers visited the village along with their families on the next two weekends and planted trees in all the pits. All the tree saplings were provided with fences made of locally available thorny bushes. It not only became a very satisfying social acitivity, but it turned out to be a great family get-together too for the volunteers. Uthishta has decided to continue their support to this project in various terms. Spreading the word among IT employees about this project, maintaining the trees planted, introducing the younger generations to environmental issues etc are some of the ongoing activities. It also provides a great opportunity for networking with other social service organizations and schools.

For the next three years this project needs the support of like minded organizations and NGOs. Especially in terms of participation by volunteers. If it succeeds in rejuvenating the river and revive the dried up water sources in the surrounding villages, it would be a great example to emulate in other cases like our own dying river Bharathapuzha. It gives ample learning experience to younger generation to observe and study the mechanisms in the nature and its ecology.

August 18th was observed as Vanamahothsava by the Kumudavathi project team marking the start of the second phase of the project. About one lakh trees will be planted on the Kumudavathi river basin in the next one year. More details on the project can be obtained from the links

https://www.facebook.com/Vfkumudvathi
http://uthishta.org/uthishta/?q=node/54
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mangalore/AOL-starts-another-phase-of-the-Kumudvathi-Rejuevenation/articleshow/21938127.cms

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