• Aditya Das

How Uttara Kannada is losing lush forest cover

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Vibha Rao

October 26, 2020

The Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, among districts with high forest cover, is rapidly losing the forests to infrastructure projects. Uttara Kannada’s unchecked development has reduced forest cover by 26%.

Construction of dams along the Kali river without appropriate rehabilitation measures has led to loss in forest cover

(Source: Amoghavarsha/ Wikimedia Commons)

According to the latest study, the forest cover in Uttara Kannada has reduced from 74.19 percentage in 1973 to 48.04 percentage in 2018 with evergreen forest cover dropping to 24.85 percentage from 56.07 percentage. The loss of forest cover stated in the study is owing to activities such as the construction of dams Kali river basin after 1975 without appropriate rehabilitation measures in the district has halved the evergreen forest cover. It highlighted that while the moist deciduous forest cover in Aghanashini riverscape has increased to 25.76% from 9.79 percentage within the same period, the evergreen forest cover has declined to 24.09 percentage from 72.15 percentage.

Over the last four decades, the forest cover in the Uttara Kannada region of Karnataka has declined because of the rising number of impromptu foundation/ infrastructure and farming exercises. Studies have demonstrated that forced ventures, development of dams, and encroachment of forest land for horticultural and agricultural practices have influenced the environment and biodiversity of the area.

The increase in single-tree or monoculture plantations like teak, eucalyptus, and acacia by the state forest department as part of the social forestry scheme, conversion of the area under setting up of forest-based industries, and nuclear power plant at Kaiga amid the evergreen forests are some other major reasons of deforestation.

Situated in the central-western Ghats, Uttara Kannada is among the eight biodiversity hotspots in the country and hosts many types of flora and fauna. The natural forests are home to species of more than 4,000 blooming plants, 330 butterflies, 156 reptiles, 508 birds, 120 mammals, 289 fishes, and 135 amphibians.

The spurt in metropolitan development can be seen around significant towns like Sirsi, Siddapura, Karwar, Hubli, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar, and Dandeli. In these zones, the infringement of forest lands and conversion to agriculture, horticulture, and private plantations are predominant throughout the district. This has prompted the loss of local vegetation and wandering of wild creatures into human homes, prompting higher occasions of human-animal clashes.

The impact of unplanned activities is evident by the existence of barren hilltops, conversion of perennial streams to seasonal streams, flash floods during monsoon, droughts during summer, pollution of ecosystems, changes in water quality, soil erosion and sedimentation, extinction of endemic flora and fauna and loss of habitats, breeding grounds. Also leading to the imbalance in the ecosystem, loss of habitat, and alteration of water quality for the 61 fish species from Kali estuary, 55 species of fish from Gangavalli, 86 species from Aghnashini, 43 species from Sharavati.

A N Yellapa Reddy, the governing council member of the Foundation for Ecological Security of India and former conservator of forest in Uttara Kannada, stated the government does not want to save the environment.

He states that he had protested against many projects but the government didn't heed to him, forcing him to resign. "The projects, which are approved now, if implemented, will end biodiversity in Uttara Kannada and the Western Ghats completely. Once these projects are implemented, there will be no human existence remaining in the area as the floods and droughts will destroy everything," Reddy warned.

Sources: (Scroll.in, Mongabay)

Edited by : Shreya Gupta and Aditya Das

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