MOODBIDRI (DAKSHINA KANNADA)
Just 25 km from the Western Ghats, the Phalguni river flowing on the outskirts of this town, known for the 15th century thousand-pillar Jain temple Tribhuvana Tilaka Choodamani and now popular as a centre of education, is completely dry.
Though Dakshina Kannada was once known for abundant rainfall, its image was dented with the ‘drought-hit’ tag for the first time in 2017. The State government then declared Mangaluru, with Moodbidri in it, and Bantwal taluks as parched. The entire district was declared “partially drought-hit” this year.
Sensing that water management had really gone out of hand, the 93-member Rotary Club of Moodbidri thought of going back to the roots — the traditional water harvesting systems. They floated Rotary Charitable Trust and launched the ‘Rotalakes’ project three years ago to revive waterbodies using personal investments and funds collected from various sources.
The project has become a reality with the revival of four traditional waterbodies in the jurisdiction of Moodbidri City Municipal Council in three years.
Of them, a major project — reviving a waterbody on 1.25 acres in Kemplaje — involves an investment of about Rs 1.2 crore. Of this amount, Rs 1 crore has been sponsored by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. The project, taken up two months ago, is on the verge of completion and the waterbody is waiting to store this season’s rainwater. Over 5,000 truckloads of silt and mud were removed to rejuvenate it.
The first waterbody to be rejuvenated was ‘Mohalla Kere’ in 2016-17 in the heart of the town. “We lifted about 1,800 truckloads of silt from it,” R V Muralikrishna, a doctor who is also the president of the trust, told The Hindu. It cost about Rs 12 lakh.
“Earlier, it was virtually a dumping yard for all sorts of materials. We removed loads of garbage first,” said club member P K Thomas, who was also a member of the Moodbidri CMC. This kere on 61 cents (over half an acre) still holds water. Maqbul Hussain, another member of the club, said, “The open wells of many people in the mohalla got recharged later.”
‘Uliya Kere’ on about half an acre was dredged in 2017-18. It cost about Rs. 8 lakh and 1,000 or so truckloads of silt were removed from it.
A waterbody spread over one acre in Subhashnagar was dredged this year and about 1,500 truckloads of silt removed from it. “Devu Shetty, a hotelier in Mumbai, bore the entire cost of silt transportation. It was a great relief for all of us as silt transportation requires a lot of money,” said Dr. Muralikrishna. The waterbody’s rejuvenation cost about Rs. 8 lakh.
Shree Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project, a non-governmental organisation, has given Rs. 7 lakh for three projects. It has also promised Rs. 2 lakh each for all future projects.
Ramesha, president of Rotary Club of Moodbidri, said, “About 50% of our club members are harvesting roof water now.”
Amrut Malla, who lived in Moodbidri till recently before shifting to Puttur, said the initiative should be an eye-opener for all on recharging groundwater by harvesting rainwater.