In a demonstration of the inextricable connection between Tuluva culture and River Nethravati, activists gathered on the banks of the river at Uppinangadi on Friday to rouse up opposition against the Yettinahole river diversion.
With the river already have thinned to a trickle near the confluence of Nethravati and Kumaradhara, the activists voiced concern that even this trickle may not exist when the project, which seeks to pump out nearly 24 TMC of water from the tributaries of the river upstream and divert them to the plains of the State, is implemented.
Explaining the importance of the river in Tuluva culture, Gurudevananda, the Odiyoor seer, said the boundaries of Tulu Nadu were framed between Payaswini and Sita Rivers, while being fed in the middle by the Nethravati. “It is up to the Tuluvas to unite against this,” he said.
Even though the government claims only “excess, waste” water will be diverted, Shreesha Kumar M.K., lecturer, Vivekananda College in Puttur, said it was this excess water that allowed the river to be perennial.
“The mud beneath the rocks is very hard. It becomes soft and absorbent during the monsoons during the rains and copious volumes of water…“There may be a time when no one drop will flow during the dry season,” he said, even as numerous villagers were crossing the river on foot now. The river flow, he said, had been diminishing over the last few decades.
“Before, boats came upstream to Uppinangadi where they would sell salt (the supposed etymology of the town name). Now, if the project is implemented, perhaps, only salt water will permeate till here,” said Mr. Kumar, adding that the river was pivotal to the religious processions and programmes of the town.
Citing instances of failed diversion projects around the world that ended up drying both the source and the beneficiary, Mr. Kumar said rejuvenating 13,000 lakes in Kolar would provide a better long-term solution.
‘Betrayal of people’
Project opponent M.G. Hedge said the concept was a result of politics without consequence, and it was this politics that “needed to be taught a lesson in the coming elections”.
Niranjan Rai, convener of Nethravati River Diversion Opposition Committee that organised the protest meet, said the project amounted to the betrayal of people. “The district has contributed immensely in tax collection, medical education and healthcare, and provides high revenues to KSRTC, Mescom. And yet, every project announced by the State supersedes the interest of the people. There have not been irrigation projects announced, while areca farmers are ignored,” he said.
The protestors resolved to up their opposition on January 31, which is tentatively when the foundation of the project would be laid.