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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Diverting the Netravati? NO PLEASE!

The Netravati is a small perennial rain-fed river originating in the Western Ghats of India. This 100 kilometer long river is the life line for the district of Dakshina Kannada and the city of Mangalore.  The Netravati flows travel nearly half of its length in the Western Ghats and only the remaining half is available for human activities. Along this stretch, human activity has already caused considerable damage to this river’s biodiversity through the construction of numerous dams and a mini hydel power plant. Off late there has been some about of political gossip and tension regarding the now proposed river diversion project. Below, I have tried to reason out the potential damages that Mangaloreans would incur if the project is executed.

The diversion of the Netravati to Kolar would lead to an alteration of the natural flow regime of the river. This change in the flow regime would lead unexpected increase / decrease in the flow and changes in the seasonality / timing of flow events – all of which would lead to both drought like scenarios and sudden flash floods. Any reduction in river run off would lead to influx of sea water into the river system causing salination of the existing water sources.

The Netravati flows through the scenic Western Ghats bio reserve. Any alteration to the flow would lead to unimaginable loss and damage to this natural beauty. The destruction of this biodiversity would be directly reflected on the local climate and more importantly on the local health.

The Netravati joins the Arabian Sea at Mangalore through an estuary. Estuaries are precious ecosystems that aid in the breeding of fish. A reduction in the river run off into the sea would lead to changes in the estuarine structure causing tremendous harm to marine life. Mangalore would directly be affected in the form of reduced fish yield.

The entire survival of the ecology of Mangalore revolves around this river. The flora and fauna are all heavily dependent on the habitat and support provided by the Netravati. The local population too is heavily dependent on this river. Industries like MRPL and the new MSEZ are too a part of the demand group. This river may be perennial but is not a surplus river. Every year the people of Mangalore face a difficult situation in summer due to reduced river flow. At times the situation turns so grim that water supply to major industries is shut down to ensure that the people have water to quench their thirsts.

The proposed diversion of the Netravati is on the assumptions that the river has surplus water. The very idea that the river is water rich is farce. The proposal is unscientific and unethical. The river diversion needs to be stopped.

Kindly voice your opinion on the issue by posting a comment below.