There was a time when Belagavi rains used to arrive around the 7th of June and they were here to stay. The characteristic drizzle stayed almost for three months with intermittent spells of heavy rain, but this year we have missed all of this.
Those were times when the sun almost stayed out of sight for the entire duration. Thanks to these weather patterns, there was a typical chill in the weather and as they said, the cold crept in from the floor.
Drying clothes was an arduous task. Water collected in puddles all around and the vast expanses of open land in the city were home to hundreds of frogs whose croaking orchestra was incessant. The lakes and ponds overflowed and children spent time catching little fish as the overflowing waters reached the city spaces. These fish were collected and carefully dropped into open wells which were also in plenty. And all this was not really long ago.
Although this was the reality through the monsoon, there wasn’t any real flooding. The slow and steady rain meant that the water could percolate down to deeper spaces and recharge the wells to provide sufficient drinking water. In the extension areas, water was so abundant that if one dug a pit to plant trees, one would tap into the groundwater resource.
This was the 1970s and 80s. A lot has changed since. The increasing population has meant that the open spaces in the city no longer exist. Many open wells have unfortunately been shut down. Spaces within and beyond individual household compounds have been concreted or covered with pavers and more importantly, the vegetation in the city has dramatically reduced; thus severely, and negatively impacting the monsoon.
While we can blame the erratic monsoon on the overall global climate change, we also need to consider what has happened both within and around the city. Most importantly, we need to consider what has befallen the Western Ghats, a majority of which lie in Khanapur taluka.
There has been a consistent degradation of pristine forest species in the Western Ghats. Clearing land for agriculture, infrastructure, and roads has damaged the once-intact ecosystems which govern the way the monsoon makes its entry and even spreads across the season. We now have erratic rains and spells of clear sky and heavy downpour that leads to flooding almost every year.
While the monsoon clouds over the sea bring in a decent amount of moisture, the clouds are still not seeded enough for it to rain. Almost 40 percent of the cloud moisture if not more is contributed by trees through the process of transpiration.
The polyphenolic compounds that mingle with the water from tree transpiration also contribute to promoting precipitation and hence rainfall. In the absence or lack of these, the clouds just hover around and travel longer distances to accumulate the same quantum of water, and places that didn’t have much rainfall earlier, now have cloud bursts as happened in Hukkeri and Chikkodi in recent times.
Before the alarming situation gets out of control, we need to take due steps to ensure that the damage is mitigated or even reversed. It is with this thought in mind that the Green Saviours Association, Belagavi has undertaken project One Million Greens which aims at adding a million units of trees, shrubs, and plants in the Western Ghats region in Khanapur Taluka and Belagavi Rural.
While it is almost impossible to reverse the damage that has been caused over the past three to four decades, it might just be possible to control the damage and if Mother Nature and her processes prevail, maybe compensate with enough vegetation to reverse the damage.
The key issue for the success of the project is the participation of all the stakeholders involved, namely the people in Belagavi, the locals in the villages in the Ghats, and the administration.
In addition to conserving the trees that exist, the Green Saviours team estimates that there is a need to plant and maintain at least a couple of lakh trees in the city and around 1 crore trees in Khanapur Taluka in order to make a difference in the coming decade.
While the difficulties are plentiful, it is with immense enthusiasm, energy, and belief that the Green Saviours have been working on the same for the past 372 Sundays since its inception in April 2016. The team has also commenced an initiative called Green Talks to raise awareness and give a call to action to people from all walks of life.
From the platform of All About Belgaum, the team invite and requests people in the city including the administration to join us in the mission to restore Belagavi to its long-lost climatic glory.