Save Western Ghats! Your Voice Matters on RISK & THREATS Hurting WG

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Save Western Ghats! Your Voice Matters on Risk & Threats Affecting & Hurting WESTERN GHATS. The RISKS and THREATS are- Mining Approval; Linera Infra; River Diversion; Quarrying; Politics; Tribal Laws; Consumerism; ESA Objections; Poaching; Deforestation; Encroachment; among others

Mangaluru: To know the importance of WESTERN GHATS and to conserve it, Vruksha Foundation and The Tree Lovers (TTL) Group arranged a talk on SAVING WESTERN GHATS by experienced speakers at the Gelge Hall, St Aloysius College campus, on Tuesday, 9 August at 3:30 pm. The three resource persons were environmentalists Dinesh Holla, CA Giridhar Kamath, both from Mangaluru and “Tree Doctor” Vijay Nishanth from Bengaluru.

The RISKS and THREATS Affecting and hurting WESTERN GHATS are- Mining Approval; Linera Infra; River Diversion; Quarrying; Politics; Tribal Laws; Consumerism; ESA Objections; Poaching; Deforestation; Encroachment; among others.

The programme was one of fruitful sessions for Mangaloreans, including college students. As a lot of development projects are coming up in the Western Ghats where the local citizens are not much aware of the repercussions and future we face. On that note, every speaker stressed the fact how important it is to be aware of Western Ghats and what is the responsibility of Mangaloreans and the other people around. Children who were also part of the audience were very enthusiastic about the fact of how to contribute and it ignited their minds in this session. Many posed queries to the speakers clarifying their doubts on the Western Ghats, and they got back the right answers from the three speakers.

The Western Ghats are endowed with perennial river networks and function as a water tower for peninsular India, ensuring water and food security, and sustaining the livelihood of millions of dependent populations. The Western Ghats have been experiencing land degradation and deforestation due to higher loss of forest cover since Independence with unplanned developmental activities and fragmented governance. However, scientists say that if south India is to remain safe, the Western Ghats should remain safe. It is to be seen if the ruling BJP government in Karnataka and at the Centre as well as the local groups move ahead over the issue in terms of safeguarding the Western Ghats and ensuring the livelihoods of inhabitants.

Global temperatures are soaring and forests in the western Ghats are disappearing at a rapid pace. Recently a lot of blanket decisions and fast-track approvals have been given by govts furthering commercial industrial footprints in buffer and protected zones. This is threatening our very existence and impacting weather patterns and water catchment and river flows to the deccan peninsula. Save ghats, save the planet, save water, climate change…and such keep buzzing in our ears. So can we do something to reduce it?

What are our rights? How as individuals and citizens can we make sure our voices are heard to save and protect the remaining fragile ecosystems? What is the importance of ghats and how petitions, awareness campaigns and people participation can put resistance and help to halt project executions or stop further destruction? Everybody in the august gathering was ready to hear from the amazing three speakers!

The session began with invoking God’s blessings through a prayer song by Miss Freida Tauro, the daughter of environmentalist Daryl Tauro, who compered the programme and delivered the introductory remarks. The session was inaugurated by the lighting of the traditional lamp by Chief guest Rev Dr Praveen Martis SJ, the Principal of St Aloysius College, joined by the three speakers, Dinesh Holla, CA Giridhar Kamath and Vijay Nishanth, among others.

Rev Dr Praveen Martis SJ in his inaugural address complimenting the organizers for arranging the much-needed session to save Western Ghats and Green environment said, “In contemporary time, Earth is plagued by a lot of environmental hazards and if necessary steps are not taken on time, life would soon cease to exist in this Planet. To protect and preserve our Planet for future generations, we need to use its natural resources wisely. Let us pledge to a beautiful and green society and do our part in saving the environment. In our College, our students are putting in a lot of effort in keeping the campus green and clean, thereby making the campus environmental friendly” MORE ON FR PRAVEEN MARTIS SJ SPEECH CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW).

Dinesh Holla is an environmental activist from Managluru, writer, artist, and convenor of Sahyadri Sanchaya and a passionate trekker. He has also worked towards the upliftment of tribal children. He spoke on how the Western Ghats are critical to the flourishing of many cities in Karnataka like Mangaluru, and Bengaluru, among other places, and how Western Ghats ecology is bearing the brunt of unscientific river diversion projects, linear road infra for eight lanes and other developmental projects.

DINESH HOLLA

Another speaker CA Giridhar Kamath is an Environmental Activist. Co-convener Sahyadri Sanchaya movement. Actively involved in the Yettinahole movement and Paschima Ghatta Ulisi movement, he is a Chartered Accountant by profession. He is also the former Chairman Mangalore branch of ICAI and conducts seminars all over India related to the CA profession. Associated with the Youth Hostel Association of India, he conducts regular trekking for students in Western ghats. Founder Member of Team Mangalore that organises Kite festivals in Mangaluru till date has organised six international kite festivals and Four National Kite festivals. He is also the Founder member and Trustee of Animal Care Trust Mangaluru.

CA GIRIDHAR KAMATH

The third speaker, Vijay Nishanth from Bengaluru known as “Tree Doctor” is a young passionate Environmentalist. He dropped out of engineering not to start a software firm but instead followed his passion to be a founding member of Project Vruksha. Vruksha Foundation has done a very unique work of treemap documentation of 15000 trees in Bengaluru and Mysore which helps in tree census and this has helped urban tree conservation. Representing Project Vruksha he was also a petitioner in some major projects like stalling the Hubli Ankola Railway line project, Bangalore Steel Bridge flyover, Bannerghatta stone quarrying and more recently stalling 5000 hectares of Hesaraghatta grasslands in Karnataka.

“TREE DOCTOR” VIJAY NISHANTH

Environmental activist Dinesh Holla spoke about the threats faced by the Western Ghats ecosystems in Karnataka, and how they can be addressed. He said that the Western Ghats are critical to the flourishing of all cities in Karnataka from Mangaluru to Bangalore. He explained the Shola grassland-forest ecosystem and how they are bearing the brunt of man-made fires, construction activity, dams, and other developmental projects. He directly charged that state and Central governments are moving ahead with the destruction of nature for their selfish gains. Even after the Central government’s declaration to implement the Kasturirangan report, the opposition of the state can only be termed as ulterior motive and oppressive”.

“The Kodagu, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, and Udupi districts are experiencing landslides and floods as homestays, mining, hydel projects, and resorts have encroached upon the forest covers of Western Ghats. The farmers, villagers and tribal people of the region are kept in ignorance and made to believe that they are going to lose their livelihood. We have been asking for the official Kananda translation of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan Report on the Western Ghats. So, real awareness is created. The people who come together can give a befitting answer by raising the opposition,” Dinesh Holla explained.

“If the Western Ghats are safe, entire south India will be safe. But, the forest region of Western Ghats is being harmed. The ecosystem is suffering every day. Why were these landslides, floods, and cyclones not witnessed a few years ago? It is the result of the pilferage of forests for resorts, and hydel projects. The awareness should be created in every home by parents and at every school by teachers on the destruction of Western Ghats,” added Holla.

CA Giridhar Kamath said “The Western Ghats, which has been accorded the status of a biodiversity hotspot by the UN, is in dire need of protection even as several developmental projects are queued up, threatening the ecosystem. Rejection of reports like Dr Kasturirangan is only expected to aggravate the damage being caused to the Western Ghats in Karnataka and neighbouring states. It is a time when the impact of climate change is so clear in terms of flash floods, landslides and changes in rainfall patterns, the Karnataka government has decided to do away with the Dr Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats. This has drawn sharp criticism from environmental activists who see it as a big dent in the efforts to save the sensitive Malnad region”.

“The Western Ghats is the main water source for South India. It must be protected at any cost. The rejection of the Kasturirangan report will only pave the way for altering the existing laws. Despite repeated indications of ecosystem degradation in the form of yearly landslides and floods, the government is still in pursuit of diluting the implementation of strategies and guidelines put forth in the Kasturirangan report. Local business and commercial activities including homestays, tea or coffee processing, curing, roasting and grinding, commercial complex, shops, manufacture of cement products like blocks, pipes, bricks and roofing tiles and wood furniture units are in the green category and will continue without any new restrictions,” he added.

“Transplanting trees is part of the tree conservation act, ” said Vijay Nishanth, Bengaluru’s tree expert, referred to as a “Tree Doctor” who has done hundreds of tree transplants in several cities. Rampant illegal cutting, diseases and pollution-related stress that make trees sick and weak become Vijay’s patients. “Want to know the number of trees that I have saved? Even on a conservative estimate, it would be around 2 lakh in the last 20 plus years amongst which I have transplanted nearly 300 plus until now,” said Vijay.

Vijay believes every tree is valuable. “People are heartless, they drill holes and cause pain. Look at their withered innards and decades-old trunk shrinking with blows. Age, weather and human neglect are the reasons they don’t live even half their age. How can I keep quiet, I have to save thousands of trees in my lifetime. That’s the best gift I can give to mankind,” he said.

Vijay worked as a volunteer for almost a decade at the Forest Cell of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). That’s when he saw trees being cut off across Bengaluru and the worst was, that there was no account of the number of trees being chopped. One day he said, “how can we go on without having track of it?” Vijay gradually understood the need for a tracking mechanism to be in place. He quit engineering and joined a friend’s company when he got the time to concentrate on environmental issues.

“I worked with a software company, which was into mapping houses. But I decided to use my friend S Shariff’s knowledge at the software company which developed an App that could help in the documentation process. I applied his ideas to track the trees that are being chopped through Vruksha.com for an online tree-mapping start-up,” he said. Concurrently when Bengaluru was being transformed from a garden city to lap up brick and mortar he wanted to learn more about the know-how on healing trees.

On the website, apart from pictures that denote every kind of tree recorded, Vruksha.com also recommends the options that can be planted in free spaces at different locations. The website also carries a list of endemic and exotic tree species. According to the Karnataka Tree Preservation Act, it’s not only planting and maintaining but transplanting them which is key to conservation, said Vijay.

And on the tree front, Vijay is working on recording the sounds of the trees! Elders always said, don’t chop trees, it hurts. So he thought trees should have an inbuilt voice that has to be tracked on record. “So with a special equipment that I imported from Europe called MIDI, I have started a project called”Vriksha Dwani” where some trees in Bangalore Palace are being recorded. The equipment picks the electromagnetic variations and converts them into sound and records it for knowing the Dwani or sound,” explained Vijay.

The three speakers were presented with mementoes by Environmentalist Jeeth Mila Roche. The session was meticulously planned by environmentalists, ARJUN MASCARENHAS, CHARLES D’SOUZA (Bengaluru) and DANIEL TAURO. Following the talks, a few members of the audience put forth a few queries to the three speakers which were answered to the point. The participants learned and exchanged green ideas from renowned speakers and grass root environmental activists who have been in the zone raising voices repeatedly with government and politicians, and also have successfully managed to put brakes on some of the critical projects in Karnataka which could have been destroyed otherwise. Good Job by the organizers- LET TREES LIVE! LET FORESTS THRIVE! LIVE & LET LIVE!

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