Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Kodagu, The Lost Land!

Disaster stuck Kerala and Kodagu at once, Nature Fury brought down the best know holiday spots, most popular tourist locations, land of coffee, tea and spices to ground zero like never before. The disaster that has stuck is beyond anyone’s imagination, floods, excessive rains, landslides and hills came down carrying along the villages, wounded and scared both Kerala and Kodagu forever.

As people of Kerala and Kodagu battled the Nature Fury, help from across the nation and world started pouring, a group us from B.PAC-BCLIP decided to reach Kodagu and help people by working on ground and not just send relief material. As we travelled to Madikeri, trucks carrying relief materials, broken roads, landslides, non-stop rains, ruined landscape was visible everywhere.

DC Office had mobilized officers from across the state, rescue operations across the villages that were completely disconnected, and where people were stranded was top priority, hundreds of families had walked 3-4 days fighting all odds to reach relief centers literally broken and empty handed. Relief camps were set up at different places, there were stories of bravery, resilience and trauma cutting across all sections of the society. Madrassa, Church, Temple, Schools, Govt Buildings, Community Centers all turned into relief camps for inflowing people from across Kodagu.

Meeting people at the relief camps, talking to the people who were running it and the Govt staff who were working non-stop to send supplies both to relief camps and to the villages where people were at their home without food for days left us emotional.

Various Municipalities and Corporations had sent staff to clean the flooded areas, cities and towns. Kodagu needed everything from toilets to geysers to massive cleaning equipment and most importantly resources to work on ground. 

We as a team after visiting various relief camps decided to work at the stock point at the DC Office where all the relief materials sent by people and Govt was reaching and took upon ourselves to sort every item that was coming in by checking each and every box that was unloaded. The sorted material was then packed as per requirement and sent to various panchayats and relief camps for further disbursement via nodal officers. It was heartbreaking to see how calls were pouring in asking for ration and other material and reaching all the requirements with not much of road connectivity was getting tougher.

With over 50% of the 4000kms of panchayat roads (other than PWD roads) that connect villages destroyed the challenges of relief was only multiplying. With Rescue operations winding up, Relief had taken over and there was not much time to think about Rehabilitation and Rebuilding. With homes, livelihood, infrastructure gutted, how can Kodagu get back on its feet was a question on everyone’s mind. Many questions many issues but it’s a long long way to recovery, no doubt people of Kodagu will rebuild but it’s a task that needs a huge participation from Government and people across the State.

As an when Kodagu limps back to normalcy building homes before the brutal winters hits Kodagu, and there is no guarantee that there will be no more rains either. It is a task that Government has to take up on a war footing basis, and extend every possible support for people of Kodagu without any administrative delays.

We left Kodagu after 4 days with a heavy heart but sooner or later many of us have to go back to do our bit to stand with Kodagu.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Suggestions: Effective Management of State Water Resources

State is Karnataka is blessed with favorable weather and more than consistent average rainfall for last 40 years in comparison to many other states in India, but our challenges are indeed many, less than 1/3 of the agriculture or cultivable land has any source of irrigation and being the upper riparian state, we have been at the receiving end of long standing water disputes with many states.

Prolonged legal battle has been throwing up multiple challenges to farming community and for addressing the constantly escalating food demands in the state. Karnataka has been innovative in many ways to address several water resources related constrains but, is that all we can do is a question we need to ask, and how do we increase food production and truly be a farmer friendly state should be our focus for the next 10 years.


Karnataka State needs a comprehensive and conventional Water Resources Management policy, this will be the 1st of its kind in India that will focus on Water Resource Management and not mere usage.

Restoration of actual capacity in reservoirs by exploring desilting options. Improving the water flow from sources all through the river flow by restoring the catchment areas and improving forest cover.

Resolve Water disputes by bilateral dialog, as courts take time and prolonged cases are not in benefit of the state. 

Creating additional localized storage capacity in form of Lakes, Ponds, Well and Tanks that can be filled with excess water from reservoirs during rainy season or good monsoon thereby ensuring unutilized water in not flowing into sea in excess. This will also mean recharging the ground water table, that can become an important alternate source of water for drinking and irrigation.

Integrated plan with Minor Irrigation and Urban Sewage Boards to effectively treat wastewater via STP & ETP for reuse, thereby reducing water pollutants (industrial & human) reaching large water bodies.

Time bound plan to clean up Arakavathy and Vrushabhavathy (which is nothing but Bengaluru sewage) by establishing natural treatments process and cleaning up the catchment areas, and a holistic approach to improve the quality and quantity of water.

Catchment areas of most rivers and tributaries have been the exploited by human activities across all the rivers and its tributaries, reinforcing the catchment areas can improve a better flow and storage of water.

Restrict human activities along the river runs, catchment areas and back waters to reduce floating pollution and industrial pollutants reaching water bodies.

Collaborate with Agriculture and Rural Development Ministries for improvising Watershed and Krishi Hondas (agriculture ponds) in districts which are drought prone, thereby creating additional storage options at every level.

Implement real-time monitoring of all the water bodies, catchment areas, wetlands and river courses/run to assess and enforce immediate action in a timely manner.

I hope my suggestion will help the Water Resources Department in developing a long-term plan for an Effective Management of Water Resources making Karnataka Water Sufficient all through the year.

Kavitha Reddy

Note: Sent to GoK Water Resources Dept on 16th July 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Run for Greener and Safer Bengaluru


6th edition of HSR 10K Freedom Run a prime running event in HSR Layout was successfully organised by Kaagaz Foundation on 12th Aug 2018. Every year these has been a cause attached to it, and this year cause was 'Greener & Safer Bengaluru'. The Run attracted over 500 runners, Women, Men, Boys and Girls in 10K and 5K category, 10K was a timed race and saw close competition in both Male & Female categories.

The winners of 6th edition of HSR 10K Freedom Run are:

10K Women: Kalaiselvi L (44.06 minutes), Neera Katwal (46.40), Parul Yadav (47.07)
10K Men: Mikiyas Y Lemlemu (32.18 minutes), Borappa M (32.41), Dinesh (32.45)
5K Women: Disha R, Anuja Karnik, Rimjhim RajKhowa
5K Men: Ramesh, Neeraj Bachani, Tirumal Prasad

The runners were given Finisher Medals and the Winners of 10K took away the Medals & Cash Prize. The day race day started with Zumba warm-up session and the run was flagged off by BBMP Pourakarmikas who were the Chief Guest for the event, and also gave away the winner medals. Interestingly two runners were from the HSR Traffic Police and the three runners were Kenyan Nationals. 

'We are delighted that this is our 6th edition of the run, and this year we organised the run on 12th Aug instead of 15th Aug due to weather conditions' said Jigna Modh, Events Head, Kaagaz Foundation.  

HSR 10K Freedom Run was supported by BBMP, B.PAC, Green View Hospital, EcoContours and Basecamp Adventures, Lalithamba one of the Co-Founder of HaSiRu Mithra, addressed the runners about plastic pollution and conducted composting workshop, giving tips to the runner on simple composting methods. 

'HSR 10K Freedom Run is our flagship event, and we take up causes and campaign for the same all year long, this year the focus will be on Greener & Safer Bengaluru, where we will be working on issues related to Environment that include Garbage, Water, Lakes, Tree Plantation and also on conducting Safety Workshops for Girls/Women in Schools, Colleges and Organizations' said Kavitha Reddy, Trustee Kaagaz Foundation and also Co-Founder HaSiRu Mithra.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Time for Sustainable Tourism in One State Many Worlds!

Pic source internet

Tourism brings cultures, cuisines and countries together, a recent newspaper clip caught the attention of many, when the locals of Shimla were pleading the Tourist not to visit Shimla!

Depleting resources, excess commercialization, increase in waste output, impact on environment are serious concerns in most of the Tourist spots across India. Tourism is not necessarily a fully organized industry in India, but for many states biggest source of revenue and job creating comes from Tourism, and foreign tourist influx brings in much needed foreign exchange, of course we forget the fact that local tourists are indeed greater volume when it comes to religious tourism, and hill stations that are high on honeymoon tourism. With accessibility and added economic power local tourists indeed outnumber the foreign tourists.

The lopsided tourism policies are focused on creating tourism infrastructure and seldom focus on developing the industry to make tourism more sustainable. These lopsided policies eventually are crumbling under their own weight, as tourist spots are becoming more and more crowded and in turn giving rise to serious environmental and sustainability issues. Be it untreated sewage let into the Ganga from the hotels in Gangotri or the garbage being thrown on the top of Khardung-La or the eateries cleaning meat at Balmuri falls or hours of traffic jams due to large number of visitors to Shivanasamudra, all tell the same story of bad policy decisions and even worst implementation.

Recently Karnataka Forest department took a decision to restrict the number of Trekkers, as the popular Trekking routes like Kudremukh, Skandagiri, Kumaraparvatha were reeling under heaps of trash and witnessed serious threat to the Flora and Fauna, but is that enough? The Forest department and Tourism department work in silos, thereby leading to more policy lapses and failure to create a holistic tourism policy.

Karnataka can offer 365 days tourism option and is blessed with a variety of options, Beaches, Wildlife, Cycling, Eco-Tourism, Safaris, Trekking, Rafting, Temples, Rock Climbing, Kayaking, Scuba Diving, Sky Diving, Forts, Monuments, Hill Stations, Waterfalls etc. With high connectivity and accessibility, the IT State lives up its tourism tagline ‘One State Many Worlds’, Tourism department’s enthusiasm to emulate states like Kerala or Goa or Rajasthan it is committing the same mistakes where the policies are devoid of sustainability. Today over 30-40 % of Karnataka tourist spots have reached the danger mark in the scale of impact on environment and sustainability.

Even though Karnataka was one of the 1st State to ban all kinds of single use plastic items fully, most tourist spots are an eyesore with plastic items littered around unmanaged, once in a while these spots are cleaned and the waste along with plastic and disposables gets dumped into nearby drain or burnt. Waste water is let into the streams and rivers without any thought on the impact it has in the long term. With excess foot falls in some of the tourist spots, there is an alarming impact on environment and resources.

Does Karnataka Tourism policy talk about waste management or treating of waste water or low emission transport, does the state have a policy on making tourism more sustainable? Answer in NO! Any tourist spot that has an average of 100 tourists per day has to be considered at a high inflow spot where the infrastructure like hotels, toilets, eateries, souvenir stores, facilities needs to be regulated and made fully complaint under the ‘Sustainable Tourism Guidelines’, and also create a community-based tourism where the beneficiaries are the local communities and not the Tourism department.

Tourism department has to play the role of a facilitator, incubator and regulator and not that of an operator, thereby making tourism more community based, this can create direct employment for local communities and increase accountability on Sustainable Tourism with checks and balances.

There is an argument that focus on Sustainable Tourism could lead to lesser inflow of tourists, which in reality invalid argument, as in the long-term there are more gains then loss, and also it is an opportunity to identify and develop more tourist spots. If the objective is to ensure that a foreigner should be able to spend one extra day in Karnataka, then it is a strong reason enough to offer more options rather than more days with fewer options.

So, what are the suggestions for Karnataka Tourism, here are some options, 1. Redraft tourism policy making it Sustainability centric 2. Shift from the role of an Operator to Facilitator, Incubator and Regulator 3. Promote Responsible Tourism via Community and Operators 4. Invest in resource development, low emission transport and not merely in infrastructure buildings 5. Focus on maintenance, cleanliness and branding of the tourist spots 6. Market tourist spots not facilities 7. Incubate operators and encourage operators to create circuits based on season 8. Prohibit tourist spots for at least 100 days in a year, to ensure re-cope and reduce exploitation 9. Stay committed to Environment friendly Sustainable Tourism. 

Sustainable Tourism has to be the only way forward, foot falls cannot be the scale to measure success of tourism policy, scale of sustainability is far more important as we are constantly challenged by resource constraints and environmental impact.   

Kavitha Reddy
Director, Basecamp Adventures (Karnataka’s only Adventure Tour Operator Approved & Recognized by Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India)

Published in Deccan Herald, 3rd Sept 2018