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World Rivers Day 2023 observed at the origin of River Malaprabha at Kankumbi Village, Belagavi

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By uday

‘Malaprabha Saurakshan Abiyan: Ugam Se Sangam Tak’ Launched
The picturesque village of Kankumbi nestled within the Sahyadri Range of the Western Ghats in Khanapur Taluka of Belagavi District played host on the 4th Sunday of September, observed around the world as World Rivers Day, to a gathering that met to deliberate on the Malaprabha river and the abundant bounty it offered to her people there and beyond.

Initiated by nature and conservation enthusiasts, local groups, and members of Lt Gen Sardeshpande Smarak Sahyadri Vana Saurakshan va/ haagu Adhayana Kendra ( Sahyadri Conservation Interpretation Centre), Uchawade Village, the event began with a darshan of the Mauli Devi Temple deity. The gathering endorsed the start with the slogan: ‘Jal Hai tho Kal Hai; Jal Hai tho Hal Hai)’.

This was followed by a pad-yatra to the ugam sthaan (origin) Ram Teerth Mandir; solemnising the event with an offering of pooja praying for the river’s Arival Nirmal Dhara (continuous and unpolluted flow). It was attended by people from Kankumbi, Chorla, Goa, Maharashtra, Belagavi, Dharwad, Huballi.

The gathering deliberated and discussed the various aspects of how all of the natural world including human beings are dependent on water for all our needs juxtaposed against the limited quantity of fresh water available to meet those needs. Other aspects that came up for discussion were the problems caused by pollution, water use and abuse, the role of rivers in our traditional, cultural and religious life and how we are an inseparable part of the problem, and that solutions will emerge only through constructive consistent action on ground. Many reminisced about their memories of the river as they knew it half a century ago.

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A crucial aspect brought up by the chief guest Police Commissioner of Belagavi city Shri S.N. Sidramappa,IPS, was the nuisance and damage caused by plastics in waterbodies everywhere. He specifically mentioned the town of Munavalli near the Renuka Sagar Dam where he was appalled by the sight of plastic pollution. He emphasised the need for solutions through action. He explained the causes of global as well as local water distress. In this regard, he said excessive use of ground water and use of plastic is threatening the health of the river and hence river conservation becomes a very important issue. He advised farmers to adopt micro irrigation technologies to prevent misuse of water.

Prof Rajendra Poddar, Ex Director of WALMI (Water and Land Management Institute), Dharwad presiding over the function spoke of his work of past three decades and personal experiences of positive outcomes through collective peoples’ action. The concept and idea of Jal Sakhi and Jal Mitra also came up for discussion.

Shri Aravind Shiggaon, retired Navy Officer, shared the knowledge he had gained about water during his naval service. He said that while political boundaries divide people, water unites the people of the world. He spoke about late Lt Gen Sardeshpande, who worked hard for the preservation of Sahyadri. He promised all his support towards fulfilling the tasks initiated under the leadership of the late Lt Gen Sardeshpande for the conservation of natural endowments of the Malaprabha Basin.

Shri Suresh Kulkarni, a consultant with WALMI and himself a beneficiary of the Malaprabha highlighted the neglect of river systems and fresh waterbodies as seen by him in the Malaprabha Basin in Hubli-Dharwad area in the past four decades. He appealed that farmers and beneficiaries of the river pay attention towards its conservation.

Shri V S Madnoor associated with the Ghataprabha Water Users Federation, on the side-lines, explained the water use regimes of the command areas of the Malaprabha and Ghataprabha basins and the unique geo-hydrological features of these two main tributaries of the Krishna.
Smt Deepti Dilip Gavas, Chairperson, Kankumbi Gram Panchayat said programmes would be initiated through Gram Panchayat for the conservation of the river’s Ugam Sthaan. Vice Chairperson Neelima Bhikaji Mahale, Members Smt Shakuntala Shankar Gasti and Shri Ramesh Ramchandra Khorvi agreed to work with the panchayat to take forward the steps initiated on this day.

Prof S Y Prabhu, Retd Principal of GSS College, Belagavi, presented a perspective of the quantum of fresh water present as against the quantity available for human use. Given the landmass of India and its population in comparison, he alerted the gathering on the critical nature of the matter at hand.
Shri Kiran Gavde a promotor of sustainable agro-forestry practices at Kankumbi appreciated the efforts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Huballi people and assured the gathering of all support in their efforts towards the conservation of Malaprabha.
Shri Sunil Chigulkar, Head Master of the Government School at Kankumbi spoke on the need for promoting the significance of the importance of the place as a pilgrim centre. Capt Dhond of Chorla village and Smt Laxmi Tendulkar of Belgundi village talked about their link with water systems and the nurturing inspirations they have received from engaging closely with them for long years.

The Mauli Devasthan care takers and committee members Shri Laxman Gavde and Rajaram Gavde explained the ancient history of the temple and the tradition of decadal religious fairs that have been held there for centuries.
Shri Ashwin Bhurase and Shri Rahul Prabhu Khanolkar, young professionals cum activists, spoke of their work and their considered choice and reasons for taking up matters of social and ecological concern.

Many members of local bodies expressed their views on the experience of the past vis a vis the river and the water table and water quality in the past and at present. Retd Prof Smt Himangi Prabhu, Shri Santosh Kadam, Shri Krishna Mohan Naik and others extended ready support for the success of the programme.

The days deliberations were initiated with a rendition of the poem on Malaprabha by poetess Retd Prof Anjali Chitale composed by her for the occasion. The programme concluded with a song led by Shri Suresh Kulkarni on water and soil conservation, and with a collective pledge to work for the conservation of river Malaprabha.

Resolutions were made to continue sustained efforts for the conservation of the Malaprabha basin from it origin at Kankumbi to its confluence at Kudla Sangama -the entire stretch of its 306 km long course. Efforts would be made to seek the support and guidance of Dr. Rajendra Singh, the waterman of India, in carrying out a successful Abhiyan.
Nyla Coelho, member of the Lt Gen Sardeshpande Smarak Sahyadri Conservation Interpretation Centre initiative at Uchawade Village, coordinated the days programme.

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