Saturday 15 December 2012

Blaming Nilgiris for reduced water inflow

Eucalyptus is one of the most common trees found in India, This tree is so widespread that it can be seen in states from Jammu Kashmir to Tamil Nadu.
However, this is not a native tree of India and it was first imported into India by Tipu Sultan in the later years of the 18th century from Australia.
The first eucalyptus trees were planted at the base of the Nandi Hills. The trees adapted so quickly to Indian conditions that they became very popular and farmers began planting them in large numbers.
Over the centuries,  eucalyptus or Nilgiri plantations have come up in large areas in Bangalore, Chikaballapur and Kolar districts. The social forestry schemes involved large-scale planting of Nilgiris.
Even Lalbagh in Bangalore had many Nilgiri trees. These trees were used to extract Nilgiri oil and they did not require much water to survive. However, this view has been hotly debated by biologists and geological experts who put forwards conflicting views.
While one section of the scientific community say that Nilgiri trees lead to decreased ground water, others say that there is no such thing and that Nilgiris can survive in little water. Whatever be the outcome of the debate, the Government of Karnataka seems to have decided that further planting of Nilgiris is harmful to water table.
The Government has even gone to the extent of blaming the Nilgiri trees for reduced inflow of water into Bangalore through the Arkavathy and other rivers that originate in and around Nandi Hills.
Nandi Hills is home to several rivers and the Arkavathy and Kumudavathi feed the growing  thirst of Bangalore. These two rivers empty into the TG Halli and Hesarghatta reservoirs but over the last few years the huge reservoirs have never filled up.
Studies by the State Government, Karnataka Neeravari Nigam and BWSSB have blamed Nilgiri trees for reduced inflow of water in the rivers and also into the reservoirs.
The BWSSB study has blamed widespread Nilgiri plantations in and around Nandi Hills and Hulukudi Hills for low ground water table in these areas. The study says as the Nilgiri tree has deep roots, they search water from deeper sources.
The Nilgiri trees cannot retain water like other trees. They, therefore, keep on sucking water. They also come in the way of recharging ground water.
Even as the debate on whether or not to permit Nilgiri trees continues, the bigger issue of encroachment of hills and places near water sources and in and around Nandi Hills seems to have been put on the back burner.
Growing urbanisation, greed for land, felling trees in the name of development  and unchecked construction activities have dried up water sources and also led to reduced inflow into rivers, lakes and dams.
Bangalore once had so many lakes that they the city looked like an island. Today, the lakes are all gone and the green cover in and around Bangalore has been substantially reduced. The city planners still seem to be in a slumber where protecting the environment is concerned.  
The storm water drains in Bangalore have been encroached upon and a majority of the lakes have been breached in the name of development. What is the result? Even today, Bangalore’s thirst for  waters has remained unquenched.   

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