By Kishor Cariappa
A few days back Karnataka government unveiled a proposal to construct a 125-feet tall statue of ‘Mother Kaveri’ at Brindavan Gardens in Krishna Raja Sagar reservoir near Mysuru at a cost of Rs 1,200 crores. The state government has claimed the statue will be a tribute to the river that is often called ‘mother’.
People of Kodagu are not happy with the announcement at this point of time when the district is yet to come to terms with the massive floods and landslides. Rehabilitation is going on at a slow place in the land of River Kaveri.
There is no denying the fact that successive governments in Karnataka have neglected the cause of River Kaveri which is deemed one of the most polluted rivers in south India. From Bhagamandala to Siddapur to Kushalnagar, the river is dumped with harmful wastes along its path. A study last year pointed that River Kaveri carries 600% more chemical toxins than River Ganga. Every year during summer voluntary organisations undertake clean-up campaigns which results in tons of garbage being collected from the river bed. While widespread deforestation at the catchment areas has led to decreased rainfall over the years, there is significant reduction in the base flow of the river due to sand mining.
Over the years, governments which talk about River Kaveri as ‘mother’ have not taken concrete steps to clean and preserve the river. The state budgets have no allocation for schemes and projects to revive the river by afforestation along the catchment area or to implement measures to reduce pollution. Although cases are registered against establishments for letting out pollutants to the river, no concrete plans are in place to put in place a zero-tolerance policy against pollution.
What Karnataka government can do is bring in a legislation to declare River Kaveri as a ‘living person’. Like Ganga and Yamuna rivers, it would make a lot of difference if the ‘mother’ is granted a legal human status in preservation and conservation. It would also mean that polluting or damaging the river will be legally equivalent to harming a person.
Kodagu, the land of River Kaveri, which witnessed villages being swallowed in massive landslides in August this year, has set in place a rehabilitation plan for reconstruction of the district. Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy announced the formation of the Kodagu Development Authority last month to expedite the relief and rehabilitation work in the district. Instead of building a statue at a cost of Rs 1,200 crore, the state government could have fast-tracked the rehabilitation efforts in Kodagu so that children of the ‘mother’ could forget their trauma and lead a normal life.
While the statue at KSR will be a symbol of achievement for the present government, for the people of Kodagu it doesn’t mean much other than being another tourist spot. Residents of Kodagu have always asked a question: “What has the state government given to the land (Kodagu) which has given River Kaveri to Karnataka?”.
There are no concrete answers. Only questions.