The Tippagondanahalli reservoir, located 35 km off Bangalore has been one of the sources of drinking water for Bangalore since 1930. The reservoir is the BWSSB’s major water source for the city. Today the reservoir, which has been witnessing a decreasing inflow of water from the rivers, is almost completely dry.
It is now when the residents of Bangalore have stepped up to ‘Volunteer for a Better India’ (VBI) a movement launched by the Art of Living Foundation, that a serious initiative has been taken up to rejuvenate the dying Kumudavathi river. VBI is a platform for people to resolve social issues by volunteering one hour for the nation every day in any activity to protect the environment.
“The reservoir is largely rain-fed and if you look at the rainfall statistics over the past decade or so, you will find that the rainfall levels have not really changed much over the years. So why have the water bodies, streams that feed the river, gone dry? It’s because of deforestation,” says geological scientist Lingaraju Yale, who released the action plan for the revival of the river.
He explains how rainfall from the hills percolates into the soil through the tree roots and later emerges out in streams right from hills, to flow along the river course. It is on these streams that tanks have also been built.
“So when there is deforestation, the stream network is distorted and water doesn’t get stored in the catchment areas. At the same time, there is also soil erosion because the water, without the trees, picks up the top soil and deposits it into the tank beds which have made them flat. This means that the rainwater, which forms a thin film over the flat areas instead of being pooled, easily gets evaporated.”
Extreme exploitation of ground water has also depleted the existing sub surface sources. Apart from this, indiscriminate planting of non-indigenous species of trees like eucalyptus or acacia that do not support the eco-system and compete to share more water are a problem.
“It is now time to revive the natural system by planting indigenous trees in the surrounding hilly areas where the primary streams originate. Since the young saplings need water we need to device alternate ways to establish the forest’s role in the water cycle until then.”
This is where the project really begins. “We place some boulder checks which will arrest the speed of the water when it rains and build soil moisture in strategic locations that we have identified and wherever the streams bring more water, we are identifying sites to build recharge wells.”
Already, since the project’s inception after the launch of the VBI movement, some eight villages have started receiving water in the dried-up catchment areas where the river flows through. But the scope of the project is much larger. Over the course of the next three years, the project will cover nearly 275 villages through which the river flows through ensuring water supply, apart from boosting the reserves of the T.G. Halli reservoir, so nearly one-third of the water supply will be restored.
So far over 200 volunteers have been working in different villages in the Nelamangala taluk in cleanliness, river rejuvenation awareness, survey and construction of percolation pits, cleaning small lakes, training Panchayat officers, making villages plastic free and teaching garbage segregation. The project will now take on a larger scale with plans to build over 1000 recharge wells and water conservation pits in more than 100 villages, planting 30,000 saplings before the next phase begins.
“This is a huge project and requires enormous manpower. But only manpower is not sufficient because there is a lot of work, which requires skilled labour and machinery, for which the government has to be involved.” What is needed, says Yale, is a combined effort that needs both volunteer and government support.
The ‘Volunteer for a Better India’ movement is open to all. Those who wish to volunteer (physically or financially) can contact 08042133300 or 9916025348 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
There will be a walkathon to raise awareness about the Kumudavathi River Rejuvenation project on June 8 starting from Mayo Hall at 9 a.m. ending at Freedom Park.