Dams · Floods · Hydropower · Krishna River · Western Ghats

Breaching Historic Flood Levels many times over: Aftermath of Ghataprabha Floods 2019

Photo-blog 2

On the 8th August 2019, Krishna River itself and several of its tributaries in Maharashtra as well as Karnataka crossed their Highest Flood Levels at multiple places to set new records. Nowhere is it more stark than in Gokak Falls on the River Ghataprabha in Belgaum District of Karnataka. At Gokak Falls, the Highest Flood Level of the river was more than 553 meters and exceeded the earlier record by more than 5 meters! (For More Details: https://sandrp.in/2019/08/12/krishna-basin-floods-in-karnataka-the-role-of-dams/)

Abhay Kanvinde visited Gokak Falls, Hidkal Dam and villages along the Ghataprabha and Hiranyakeshi Rivers in Karnataka to understand and photo-document the impact of raging water levels on communities and ecosystems. Some interesting facts were thrown up in this trip. Mainly that 2019 Flood levels exceeded not only the 2005 and 2006 levels, but even the historic 1914 Flood levels, which are carefully marked by the British at Gokak Hydropower Station. Continue reading “Breaching Historic Flood Levels many times over: Aftermath of Ghataprabha Floods 2019”

Dams · Disasters · Floods · Krishna River · Maharashtra · Rainfall · Western Ghats

Homes in Deluge: Aftermath of Maharashtra Floods 2019

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August 2019 Floods in Sangli and Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra have been historic. River levels washed away all  past records many times over. New High Flood Levels (HFL) were reached multiple times at multiple places both in Sangli and Kolhapur. These districts, which form the fertile Black Cotton Soil belt of Maharashtra, are the floodplains of mighty rivers of the Krishna Basin: Krishna, Koyna, Warna, Panchaganga, Tarli, Urmodi, Dudhganga, Hiranyakeshi etc.

On the 8th August, Krishna breached its HFL: Highest Flood Level at two places in Maharashtra (Kurundwad and Arjunwad). On the same day, Warna and Panchaganga too crossed their HFLs at two places: Samdoli and Terwad (Kolhapur). Continue reading “Homes in Deluge: Aftermath of Maharashtra Floods 2019”

Bhagirath Prayas Samman · Dams · Kerala · Western Ghats

Remembering Latha

It took some time to write. Latha chechi and me talked just 4 days before she passed away on Nov 16, 2017. As usual, it was about when we will meet next and go to Athirappilly Falls and travel to the river together. Her voice was light, it had a surreal gentleness. We agreed on everything, which was rare. After just a few minutes, Unni gently took the phone from her and told me she needed to sleep. It just didn’t feel right.

We first met virtually about 10 years back, discussing rivers and forests and then, through her initiative, came together to organize the first civil society workshop on Environmental Flows in January 2009 with SANDRP.  Since then, Latha Chechi has been a bubbling, enthusiastic and wise constant. We worked on several submissions together, discussed strategies and ideas, eating each other’s heads about what worked and what can work and always, I was always taken aback by her unmatched way of linking issues.

She told me, “You need one particular river. Work on all the rivers of world, but have that one river to go back to.” Continue reading “Remembering Latha”

Western Ghats

The state of the Aghanashini River Estuary

-Guest Blog by Vidyadhar Atkore

Aghanashini –is a small village situated on the southern bank of Aghanashini River in the Kumta taluka of Uttar Kannada district in Karnataka state. River Aghanashini draws its name from this village, it is also known as Tadri river as Tadri village is situated on the river mouth on the north bank.  Vast estuary and open sea at the village makes you humble. A drive along the bank of estuary is pleasant experience in the hot summer. On one side, big coconut trees and on other side, isolated, stunted mangrove patches draw your attention. Continue reading “The state of the Aghanashini River Estuary”

Krishna River · Maharashtra · Rivers · Western Ghats

Bhima River in Maharashtra: A profile

Above: Pandhapur wari, the yearly pilgrimage on Bhima banks (Source: pandharpurwari.com)

Bhima River, the largest tributary of Krishna River holds a special significance for the state of Maharashtra. The river is closely woven with the spiritual fabric of the state. The river is also referred to as Chandrabhaga River, especially at Pandharpur- the famous pilgrimage city, as it resembles the shape of the Moon. Bhima basin occupies nearly 70% area of the Krishna Basin falling in Maharashtra. Though the river originates in Maharashtra, it merges with Krishna river in Karnataka state, thus can be viewed as an independent basin.

In recent years Bhima basin has been subjected to excessive pressure of anthropogenic activities such as religious festivals attracting millions of pilgrims through the year, growing pollution by urban centres, growing sugarcane cultivation and over extraction of the river water to feed the water guzzling crop. These activities are taking toll in the river’s health and its water availability. Maharashtra state’s haste of building more and more dams in Krishna basin is most prominently visible in Bhima basin.

In this sense this sub-basin of Krishna River Basin, is its perfect miniature.

We try to present a short profile of this basin. This article is in continuum with profile of Krishna River within Maharashtra published by SANDRP a few weeks back[1]. Continue reading “Bhima River in Maharashtra: A profile”

Western Ghats

Goa River Profile

Above:  Mahadayi River (Photo: oneindia)

Introduction

Goa, twenty fifth state of the Indian Union, is small but picturesque state, famous all over the world as “The Tropical Paradise of Tourists”. Ensconced on the slopes of Western Ghats which skirts its eastern boundary and lapped by the blue expanse of the Arabian Sea in the West, Goa admeasures an area of about 3,702 sqkm. Situated between Karnataka and Maharashtra, Goa is bounded on the North by the Terekhol river, surrounded on the South and East by Karnataka while on the West is the Arabian sea. This state is divided into two districts, North and South, administered from Panaji, the capital city and Margao, respectively.

Eleven rivers are sustaining the Goan ecosystems. These rivers have sustained the earliest forms of human habitation. The discovery of rare Stone Age carvings on the banks of Kushavati and Zarme rivers stands testimony to this. From the period of Satvahanas, Chalukyas of Badami, Bhojas Kshatrapas and Abhiras, Traikutas of Konkan, Kalachuris, Mauryas of Konkan, Shilaharas, Kadambas…. the Goan rivers have encouraged development of civilization. However excessive load of anthropogenic activities such as mining, tourism etc. have been affecting these rivers from past few decades. While many of the big rivers are critically polluted, many small ones face threat of extinction. Urgent steps need to be taken to protect the rivers of this state which is more intimately linked with its rivers due to unique physiography. Continue reading “Goa River Profile”

Dams · Karnataka · Mahadayi · Western Ghats

Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal: Trouble brewing in Paradise

Karnataka is still reeling from the protests, rasta roko, bandhs, burning effigies, etc., resulting from the anger over the Interim Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal[i] (MWDT) of the 27.07.16 which did not allow Karnataka’s Appeal to temporarily lift 7 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Mahadayi Basin into Malaprabha Basin (a sub basin of Krishna basin).  Twin cities of Hubali and Dharwad, likely beneficiaries from the diversion, are centers of agitation. Schools and colleges were closed, government offices and buses were burnt, major roads were blocked by protesters. Pro-Karnataka Organizations and even Film stars have joined this protest. Karnataka Home Minister has called on the Prime Minister to look into the decision. Goa, on the other hand, is quietly celebrating this one positive step[ii]. I was reminded of  Rajendra Singh’s uncritical support to the project and also what Dr. T V Ramchandra from IISC, Bangalore said about this, “Do the film stars know the details of the issue or even where their water comes from? The day we push Pudharis away, solutions to our water woes will be easy and closer to home.”

I have returned from Mhadei/Mandovi Basin recently, tracing her footsteps near her origin to the sea and it is difficult to conceive that this veritable treasure trove of serenity and beauty is today a bone of contention, leading to unrest and violence.  Continue reading “Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal: Trouble brewing in Paradise”

CGWB · Groundwater · Western Ghats

Many colors of groundwater in a tiny Western Ghats village

“Konkan” is the narrow strip of land encompassing coastlines, estuaries, lateritic plateaus, foothills of Western Ghats and dense forests, which runs from Maharashtra to Goa. It is bound by the Arabian Sea to its west and the mighty Sahyadri ranges (Western Ghats) to its east. The isolated region has a distinct and rich culture of folklore, performing arts, music, literature, culinary art, with subtle changes from north to south. The region receives heavy rainfall of about 2500-3500 mm in summer monsoons, with the lofty Sahyadri ranges blocking the moisture-laden clouds. 

The rivers in the region are as spectacular: gushing and gurgling over steep hilly paths and meeting the Arabian Sea in just about 100-150 kilometers from their origin in the Western Ghats. The steep and hilly terrain makes it difficult to build large dams, (though we keep trying unsuccessfully as can be seen here: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/large-dams-in-konkan-western-ghats-costs-benefits-and-impacts/) and water resource managers never fail to point out that of the total yield of rivers in Maharashtra, 45% is from of the West-flowing rives of Konkan!

Having said that, the tempestuous nature of rives, rocky terrain and steep slopes mean that rives dry up as fast as they swell. The lifeline here is not surface water, but groundwater…Groundwater that emerges from springs as the predominant porous laterite rock meets a layer of clay..or dug wells…or unique water harvesting structures crafted by local communities. 

Here is a glimpse of some such structures…to appreciate not only the utility and appropriateness, but beauty of small, local structures and traditional wisdom. Also important to note is the diversity and independence of water management in Konkan: as in India..where communities own, maintain and manage their own water. There is a special kind of power and magic in this independence. Continue reading “Many colors of groundwater in a tiny Western Ghats village”

Dams · Maharashtra · Western Ghats

Large Dams in Konkan Western Ghats: Costs, Benefits and Impacts

Introduction 

Konkan is that narrow and spectacular strip of land encompassing coastlines, estuaries, lateritic plateaus, foothills of Western Ghats and dense forests, which runs from Maharashtra to Goa. Bound by the Arabian Sea to its west and the mighty Sahyadri ranges (Western Ghats) to its east, the region has a distinct and rich culture of folklore, performing arts, music, literature, culinary art. Konkan, its temples, rivers and forests have an entire Sahyadrikand of the SkandPurana dedicated to it. Several poems and songs have been penned about the beauty, the mystery and the people of this region. Many of our celebrated singers, poets and authors come from Konkan. Community conservation practices that thrive here include some of the most pristine Sacred Groves, Temple Tanks, Fish Sanctuaries and sacred trees. Continue reading “Large Dams in Konkan Western Ghats: Costs, Benefits and Impacts”

Fish Sanctuaries · Maharashtra · Western Ghats

White Elephant, Black Fish

How a 15 MW project with 55 mts high dam threatens 5 villages and a fish sanctuary

After an analysis of a particularly nasty dam, I felt like going back to flowing rivers. It is monsoon after all. The plan was to visit Kal River in Western Ghats of Raigad District in Maharashtra to understand how a community in a small village called Walen Kondh is protecting the river and Mahseer fish. Mahseer (Deccan Mahseer, Tor tor) is classified as endangered as per IUCN classification and most wild Deccan Mahseer populations have been wiped out in India. And hence a small, out of the way place, protecting these fish as well as the river voluntarily was like a breeze of fresh air. Continue reading “White Elephant, Black Fish”