Sayhadri Conservation Series 45  
ENVIS Technical Report: 82,  November 2014

Water Scarcity in Varada Catchment: Need to arrest Deforestation on Priority

Ramachandra T.V.                Subash Chandran M.D..                Vinay S                Bharath H. Aithal              

Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560012, India.
*Corresponding author:

River Varada tributary of river Tungabhadra, is the north flowing river originating at Varadamoola of Western Ghats in Sagara taluk of Shimoga district. Origin of the Varada i.e., Varadamoola is surrounded with four hillocks. Before joining river Tungabhadra near Galaganath Village of Haveri District bordering Bellary, the river flow for about 245 km from the origin with a catchment area of 5462 In Sagara taluk, river Varada flows for about 65.91km encompassing catchment area 607.97 km2 and consist about 273 lakes which are interconnected through cascaded systems in the vicinity.

Land use of a catchment with various other parameters and factors defines the water availability and the water needs. Land use Land cover (LULC) dynamics is a major concern, as the abrupt changes has a negative impact on ecology, climate, hydrological regime, and also people’s livelihood in the region. Land use analysis was carried out for Landsat 8 image of December 2013. The catchment is dominated by agriculture with over 45.32%, followed by forest land use encompassing an area of 33.38%. The crops in the catchment area are rain fed, and the plantations are dependent upon the lakes and ground water post monsoon.

The temporal land use dynamics of Varada river in Sagara taluk depict a decline of forests from 45.2% to 34.5% in the past 4 decades, attributed to intense horticultural activities that has increased from 10.9% to about 18.5%. The role of man-made plantations needs a re-evaluation, in the light of high soil erosion, weed infestation, poor hydrology and poor associated faunal diversity as compared to natural forests. The teak plantation areas in general, despite the high value of teak timber, were found to have lower biomass and needs enrichment planting by NTFP species, nectar species for honey bee promotion, Soil erosion from forests and forest plantations is a matter of grave concern. Forest restoration in the catchment areas of rivers will improve perennial nature of streams.

River and stream bank forests, including inland swamp area forests are to be considered as endangered ecosystems for various reasons, including for their high accumulation of biomass and higher levels of carbon sequestration. Forest rangewise river-stream-swamp protection action plans, incorporating adequate amount of inviolate vegetation growth for protection of ecology of these vital water courses along with their rare and endemic species is critical. The maps and action plans prepared for special protection of such areas should be included in the forest working plans of every forest division. If such working plans are already prepared these should be still prepared as supplements. Timber extraction, conversion into monoculture plantations, or encroachments or any developmental activities should not be allowed affecting these inviolate forests. Villagers in close vicinity of forest areas may be commissioned to raise small scale nurseries of selected species flowering plants for replanting inn forest areas, roadsides etc. to reduce the load on the understaffed Forest Department which is required to spend considerable time and resources  on large scale nurseries.  This will increase rural employment, especially for women while also giving scope for application of indigenous planting techniques.

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