Villagers, Conservationists Strive To Bring Dead Kumudvathi To Life, Taste Success

BENGALURU: Gopala Krishna, a farmer with 1.5 acres of land and two cows in Kerekottiganaruru village of Nelamangala taluk, Bengaluru Rural district, volunteers to clean kalyanis or step wells in his village. Krishna, 54, recalls that about 30 years ago, water from kalyanis was used for agricultural purposes, but dried up over the years.

"We are trying to bring them back to life," said Krishna. He pointed to a kalyani located next to nearby Sharada Vidyapeetha Road. "We cleaned that one just last week. When it rained on Sunday, it filled up with water which was clean."

For the villagers of Nelamangala taluk, it is back to the future. They are working to restore kalyanis and build recharge wells as well as water pools to bring back perennial water supply to the 195 villages in the district.

Praveen Kumar, an engineer who divides his time between the city and villages, says, "The villagers are habitants and beneficiaries of the river basin and are trying really hard to bring back their water resources. Help from people like me is a small contribution to the mega task," he added. Praveen has been monitoring work on water pools and recharge wells.

Simultaneously, planting of trees is on in full swing in many place along the course of the Kumudvathi river, which once flowed from its origin in Shivagange, off Tumakuru Road, and passed through Nelamangala and Magadi taluks before meeting the Arkavathy river as a tributary at the Thippagondanahalli reservoir. Ultimately, the river flows on to join the Cauvery.

The volunteers are trying to rejuvenate the river, under the Kumudvathi River Rejuvenation Project (KRRP), which is a project of the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) founded by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, under the Art of Living. The river rejuvenation essentially comprises ground water rejuvenation and for this purpose, constructing recharge wells, boulder checks, water pools, recharge injection wells and afforestation in identified villages are being undertaken. On Sunday, various ground water rejuvenation structures completed in Thyamagondlu and Mondigere mini watersheds were dedicated to the communities. "Some of the village K women bring cold beverages for us and help us plant and take care of the saplings. They water and monitor their growth. We have planted more than 8,000 trees," said Ananth A of Doddabele, when TOI visited the river course on Sunday.

Dr Lingaraju Yale, geo-hydrologist Yale, geo-hydrologist who has designed the river rejuvenation plan said, "We haven't planted any exotic varieties near the water pools, only native species. The results are on a micro level but experienced by the local people."

Environmentalist AN Yellappa Reddy said, "The Kumudvathi is still alive and pollution levels are lower compared to other rivers in the state. We've managed to channelize rainwater to 5-10% of the catchment area. The water pools created sustain water even in mid-summer and groundwater potential has improved in the surrounding wells."

He added, "Local people get quality drinking water if they take care of water bodies, and prevent digging of borewells and the land or quarry mafia from exploiting the water. Hills and mountains around the villages should be protected."

The rejuvenation of the river was initiated by the Art of Living under the International Association for Human Values, three years ago. With HAL joining in with CSR funds, rejuvenation activities were completed in the Taverekere, Thyamagondlu and Mondigere mini watersheds.

We are waiting for the day when water flows into the river. It is a collective effort by volunteers both in the village and city. I saw the water in the pools, and it was pristine. The villagers are the true beneficiaries," said VM Chamola, director (HR) of HAL.

"The role of IAHV, Art of Living, is to interact with the village community to bring awareness, with gram panchayat officials and elected members to prepare village level action plans," said T Srinivasa Reddy, faculty, Art of Living.

Times View

It's a noble mission, and we must make more such efforts to recharge or revive dying water-bodies in the country. In just three years, a group of volunteers has managed to achieve what government schemes take decades. These volunteers were driven by zeal and a desire to see a parched river spring back to life. Along the way, they started cleaning up tanks and rivers that are interlinked with the river, and the result is very sweet. There's a lot to learn from this exercise: Stop mindless savaging of banks for sand and real-estate activity, and do not flood the river with filth. More important, collective action with a clear agenda leads to rich dividends.

Courtesy: The Times of India