‘Senseless alterations’ to Western Ghats behind floods, landslips: TV Ramachandra

A J Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on August 14, 2019 Published on August 14, 2019

The mushrooming of resorts in the Western Ghats has disrupted the water stream network (File photo)   -  H_S_MANJUNATH /THE HINDU

Landslips and floods in the Western Ghats of Karnataka and Kerala have become a cause of worry for the public and governments in recent years.

After the landslips and floods in Karnataka’s Kodagu and some districts of Kerala in 2018, other parts of these two States are facing a similar situation now.

TV Ramachandra, a scientist who has done extensive research on the river basins of the Western Ghats, feels that senseless alterations of landscape structures through deforestation and disruption of water stream network, and global warming and the consequent changes in the climate trigger landslips and floods.

Ramachandra, a professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science, told BusinessLine that degradation of landscape accentuates the water flow, while lowering infiltration and retention of water in the catchment.

Unplanned activities

Stating that the unplanned developmental activities in the Western Ghats have added to the misery of the innocent people. The activities in the Western Ghats include conversion of native forests with mono-culture plantations, and the encroachment of water streams.

The mushrooming of resorts in the Western Ghats has disrupted the water flow, and people, in the process, have lost property and life.

To a query on the reasons for change in the river course downstream of Western Ghats during the 2018 and 2019 floods, he said that with deforestation a large quantum of silt gets deposited in streams and rivers in the catchment.

Asked if poor rainfall in June-July and heavy rainfall in August have had any role to play in the landslips and floods, he said the delay in the rainfall is a natural phenomenon depending on monsoon dynamics. However, the intensity of rainfall will change in a climate with deforestation, higher greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

Earlier, rainfall was spread across the monsoon season. Now, the same amount of rainfall in a shorter span of time leads to floods. The situation gets agrevated as the catchment has lost its ability to retain water.

Steps to be taken

On the steps to be initiated to prevent the occurrence of such situations in future, Ramachandra said the governments should refrain from any land-cover changes in the ecologically-fragile regions.

Stressing the need to stop narrowing and concreting water drains and streams in the name of remodelling, he said there is a need to respect the hydrological and remediation capability of natural drains that aid in infiltration and groundwater recharge. River origins, myristica swamps, sacred groves should be declared as heritage sites and protected, he added.

Published on August 14, 2019
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