17 islands at Ranganathittu to be reconstructed
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17 islands at Ranganathittu to be reconstructed

September 1, 2019

Forest Department team inspects ravaged islands; estimated loss is nearly Rs.2.5 crore

Srirangapatna, Sept.1 (Vinay Karekura & BCT)- Following large-scale destruction of islands at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary as a result of thousands of cusecs of water that was released from Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) Dam, a team of Forest Department officials visited the ravaged place of winged beauties on Tuesday last.

The islands at Ranganathittu are under water since the last 14 days and they have been flooding ever since water is being released from the Dam following copious rains in Cauvery catchment areas in Kodagu. The official team inspected the islands that have been washed away or massively destroyed including Openbill Island,  Large Cormorant Island, Kaadu Hunasemara Island, Stone Bill Island, Stone Flower Island, Neeranji Island, Hatthi Mara Island, Purple Heron Island and the Bamboo Island.

An average of 60,000 to 1 lakh cusecs of water was continuously released from the crest gates of the Reservoir and even last year, there was a same phenomenon where small trees in  the islands were uprooted and sand bags kept on the banks of islands to prevent soil erosion washed away.

Extensive damage

Taking stock of the situation, the team visited each and every island and later briefing newsmen, Mysuru Circle Chief Conservator of Forests T. Heeralal opined that several protective measures taken last year such as creation of bunds along the islands by placing sand bags have been washed away due to the sheer force of water.

Initial estimate shows that the damage could be up to the extent of Rs.2.5 crore. There are over 34 islands at Ranganathittu one of the most popular tourist spots in the State that is rated as among the best in the country. Of this, 17 islands have been extensively damaged. Every season, the bird home attracts thousands of migratory birds (more than 200 species), including the rarest of the rare birds.

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Some of the trees in the islands have been uprooted and most of the vegetation that were under water all these days have started decaying. Heeralal said that steps will be taken to rebuild the islands. Initially, sand will be filled on the islands and they will be bounded by thick plastic sheets, sand bags and pillars.

Native varieties of trees

After the islands have been secured on all sides, sand bag retaining walls will be built on the boundaries and saplings will be planted so that soil is retained by roots. Plants will be selected on the basis of the earlier plants that grew on the islands and bamboo too will be planted.

The Department cannot take the risk of planting other species of plants as birds that roost on trees and bamboo would be accustomed to a particular type of tree variety, Heeralal explained.

Among the works to be undertaken at Ranganathittu is the reconstruction of the retaining wall built across Cauvery as the retaining wall permits activities like boating amidst the islands. This retaining wall stores water and there will be sufficient water for the birds even in summer. As such, construction of the retaining wall is crucial and higher officers of Irrigation Department will be contacted and steps will be taken to construct the retaining wall as early as possible, he said.

Daily breakfast scheme

Seeing higher officials at the spot, workers and boatmen assembled at a point to meet them. They told the officers that they come to Ranganathittu early in the morning every day and do all the ground work to welcome tourists and as such they must be provided with breakfast.

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Considering that the breakfast demand is genuine, Heeralal asked his officials to provide daily breakfast to the workers with immediate effect. He also directed the officials to take care of the welfare of workers and their families.

Mysuru Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Alexander, Mandya DCF Venkatesh and Range Forest Officer Surendra and other officials were present.

Sudden water release from KRS

Range Forest Officer Puttamadegowda, under whose purview the Ranganathittu comes, alleged that the Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Limited (CNNL) that manages the KRS Dam never informs the Forest Department about the water release.

“The bird Sanctuary is located in the downstream of KRS and the moment water is released, the first place to be affected is the bird sanctuary. Usually there are tourists round the year and they come for boating and bird-watching. Due to unscheduled water release, boating activities are suspended causing revenue loss,” he said.

This year alone, Ranganathittu suffered a loss of Rs.30 lakh as boating was suspended whenever water was released from the KRS. “As we are not informed about water release in advance, boatmen have to be extra careful when the water is released suddenly. A small lapse can make the boats wash away resulting in loss of life,” he said.

Reacting on the issue, Heeralal said that he would raise the matter with CNNL authorities and write to them about the potential dangers of unscheduled an uninformed water release.

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