Opinion Op Ed 09 Dec 2018 Statue of vanity: Da ...
(Retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Karnataka))

Statue of vanity: Danger at KRS dam

Published Dec 9, 2018, 2:09 am IST
Updated Dec 9, 2018, 2:09 am IST
The statue will be a part of a theme park designed on the lines of Disney Land of California, USA.
The proposal to build a 125 ft. tall statue of Mother Cauvery in the grounds of the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam in Mandya district using 200 acres of land already in the government's possession and acquiring another 400 acres from farmers has not been thought out carefully, taking into consideration its likely impact on the environment.
 The proposal to build a 125 ft. tall statue of Mother Cauvery in the grounds of the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam in Mandya district using 200 acres of land already in the government's possession and acquiring another 400 acres from farmers has not been thought out carefully, taking into consideration its likely impact on the environment.

The proposal to build a 125 ft. tall statue of Mother Cauvery in the grounds of the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam in Mandya district using 200 acres of land already in the government's possession and acquiring another 400 acres from farmers has not been thought out carefully, taking into consideration its likely impact on the environment.

The statue will be a part of a theme park designed on the lines of Disney Land of California, USA. But engineers, intellectuals and civil right activists are furious over the proposal as the government has not taken into account the possibility that it could come in the way of regulating water for irrigation and maintaining proper flow in the river downstream for agriculture in Tamil Nadu while it is being built. Such an eventuality could see a revival of the water dispute between Karnataka and its neighbour. As Tamil Nadu is an important stakeholder no such project should be conceived without its concurrence.

 

While local farmers are agitating against the acquisition of their fertile agricultural land for the project, it's possible that the deep foundation required for the 125 ft tall statue may impact the existing dam at KRS. The numerous stone quarries located within a radius of 15 kms of the reservoir, are already a threat to its stability.  The blasting of the large deposits of the contiguous granite beneath can loosen the earth even at a distance as the speed of  sound travelling through granite deposits is 17 times faster than the speed of sound through air.

 

The Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) in Bengaluru, which  installed a seismic monitoring station at KRS  on  May 12, 2011, has  recorded two signatures of quarry blasts  on  September 25 this year from a radial distance of 10.5 kms.  They are believed to have come from a stone crusher quarry in Bebibettadakaval. Both signatures were registered within six seconds of each other. Although the agency has ruled out any major  seismic episode, there are enough indications to warn the government to tread with care . It should also be noted that the Supreme Court has prohibited blasting in any stone quarry within 2 kms of major dams like the KRS.

 

The quarries in Bebibettadakaval are on an Amruth Mahal Kaval, which is a district forest by definition. Although the Mandya forest division has in the past objected to the functioning of these quarries without the approval of the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment and Climate Change, Karnataka has not obtained any such approval and has allowed them to operate illegally.
There are also reports of illegal mining of sand and red earth from the water spread area of the KRS reservoir. Unregulated removal of sand exposes the pervious layer of the bed of the reservoir and disturbs natural drains, leading to flooding in some areas in heavy rainfall.

 

Moreover, spending another Rs 1, 200 crore on promoting tourism appears to be a misplaced priority when there are more urgent issues to be addressed in KRS. Not only has the dam silted up, but there has also been unprecedented loss of trees, especially in the catchment of the Cauvery River in Kodagu district. No effort has, however, been made to conserve the catchment.

Currently, the hilly district of Kodagu covers 4,200 sq kms, of which  1,750 sq. kms is a reserve forest managed by the forest department. Once upon a time the remaining area was heavily forested too and was a wonderful catchment for the river. The French Institute of Puducherry, which analysed the satellite images of the district for the years 1967, 1977, 1997 and 2007,  concluded that the district had lost 30 per cent tree cover in 40 years, during which time the coffee cultivation went up by 22 per cent. This only shows that  that estate owners have cleared natural tree growth and expanded their coffee cultivation without regard for the environment. Also, a number of timber merchants in Madikere have obtained the necessary permission  from the revenue and forest departments to fell trees here, forgetting that in the absence of green cover in the catchment, rain water can carry soil along with it , silting the reservoir further.

 

Seeing how important it is to have trees in the catchment of rivers, it doesn't make sense to make such a big investment in tourism, which is not a priority. Conserving the catchment of the Cauvery, which is so essential for both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, should take precedence over the construction of the statue in KRS and all such tourism promotional activities in the area.

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Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru




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