Karnataka, where the mahseer is safe…

Fishing camps along the Cauvery have helped safeguard the habitat of the mahseer. Also, most of the poachers have been rehabilitated and are employed as guides and guards to patrol the river stretch at the fishing camps, reports Susheela Nair

Hurtling from the high mountains of the Brahmagiri range in Kodagu district, the bountiful Cauvery river flows across Karnataka, snaking through forested hilly tracts and agricultural fields. Some stretches of the omnipresent Cauvery between the Shivanasamudram waterfalls and Mekedatu, shelter the giant mahseer, the legendary sport fish of India. On the banks of this stretch of the river are three fishing camps Doddamakali, six km upstream, and Galibore, 16 km downstream of Bheemeshwari and all run by the state-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd (JLR). These camps are all within a few hours drive from Bangalore. Anglers from all over the world make their annual pilgrimage to these exclusively reserved stretches to pit their wits against the mahseer while non-anglers revel in nature’s bounty.

Angling history can be traced back to the pre-independent days when the British used to ‘catch-and-kill’ the mahseer. With the construction of dams in the adjoining areas, the migration of the fish was restricted and even blocked in some places.

This contributed to the decline of the mahseer population. Moreover the villagers, mostly settlers indulged in netting, poisoning and using ordinary detonator with safety fuse thus destroying all aquatic life forms including fish fingerlings.

Explains Arun Srinivasan, President, WASI, “Realising the need to safeguard the habitat of the mahseer fish and the adjoining riverine stretches of forest, Wildlife Association of South India (WASI) set up temporary fishing camps in the mid-seventies. For the past thirty years, we have been involved in the protection of this stretch of the Cauvery river.”


Catch-and-release practice
“In the light of decreasing sizes and number of good specimens, we adopted the ‘catch-and-release’ practice, thus giving a fresh lease of life to the mighty mahseer. We have been protecting mahseer fishing by adopting conservation, stocking and management measures so as to stem the decline of mahseer population,” the WASI president adds. Subsequently JLR took over the river stretch by setting up a camp at Bheemeshwari in 1984.

The mahseer is the pride and joy of the Cauvery and Asia’s premier sporting fish. It is believed that the name has been formed from the Hindi words maha (great) and sir (head). It could equally have been derived from the Persian mahi (fish) and  sher (lion) but either way, the mahseer retains its status as king and the prize catch for all committed anglers.

In local parlance, it is known as bili meen. Catching the mahseer fish is easier said than done. The legendary fighting fish resists all attempts to catch it and there is a virtual tug-of-war between the angler and the fish for about 20-30 minutes. It can grow to over 100 lbs in weight, can easily swim upstream, against rapids, at over 20 knots, a truly spectacular sight amidst splendid scenery.

Every time a fish is caught, a camp attendant helps the angler remove it from the water, tie its mouth with a nylon rope, weigh it and pose for a photograph! And, immediately after, the rope is removed and the fish is let back into the river.

Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, the Cauvery Fishing Camp (CFC) is an ideal picnic spot for nature enthusiasts, river lovers and a paradise for hardcore anglers. Every year, head guide of a fishing holidays company David Plummer escorts a limited number of anglers to these camps which combine the thrill of hooking one of the world’s finest game fish, the mahseer, with the rugged existence of camp life. The camp activities  revolve around the ubiquitous Cauvery river which flows sinuously through the varied terrain of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.  Birding, bonfire, coracle rides, camping one the sandy banks of the river, trekking, wildlife safaris, white water rafting and bird watching are all part of the wilderness escapade.

Conservation of the mahseer
According to N D Tiwari, IFS, Managing Director, JLR, “Besides contributing to the tourism coffers, angling tourism supports conservation of the mahseer.

“The setting up of anti-poaching camps along the river has curtailed poaching and helped in protection of the river and the aqua species. The size of the fish has grown over the years from 32 pounds to 106 pounds because of protection. Most of the poachers have been rehabilitated and are employed as gillies (guides) and guards to patrol the river stretch at the fishing camps.” Since they are familiar with every tract of the forests, know every inch of the river, where each eddy and whirlpool lies, where the fish likes to school, they have proved themselves able guides. “We help anglers with our knowledge of the waters as we are experienced fishermen ourselves,” said Bhola, a rehabilitated poacher-turned-river guide at Bheemeshwari.

Lured by the social acceptance, security and steady income and the fact that their future is intimately connected with the well-being of the endangered mahseer and its habitat, they are concerned and involved in the protection.

The Coorg Wildlife Society (CWS), another voluntary organisation engaged in protecting mahseer fishing in the Cauvery (i.e. Valnoor in Coorg district,) with a lease on 28 km of this river has been stocking young mahseer in this stretch since 1993. The CWS protects this stretch of the river, issues fishing licenses, organises sport fishing and maintains fish catch statistics.

According to AJT John Singh, eminent wildlife scientist, “If the grand old giant Tor mussullah still exists, it is only because of the farsighted conservation measures adopted  by JLR and NGOs like WASI and CWS with their unique eco-tourism and catch-and-release programmes. This is an excellent model worth emulating throughout the different ranges of different species of mahseer in the country, which would mutually benefit the fish, the habitat and the local people.”

From Deccan Herald

Where has all the flood money gone?

BANGALORE: Last year’s floods in North Karnataka, the biggest natural disaster in the state in public memory, triggered the largest fund-raising exercise, generating about Rs 1,000 crore, including Rs 500 crore collected by state government agencies.

While chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has announced that he would make public the money collected and spent by the state government during the upcoming legislature session starting June 28, one wonders where all the other money has gone.

“We recently issued notices to various NGOs and social organisations, seeking a detailed report on how they spent or are spending the money collected for flood relief. But we have had little or no response,’’ said a senior officer associated with the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. He blamed the officials for it.

Waking up from its slumber, maybe just a little late, the state government is now seriously contemplating bringing out a policy to check large-scale bungling or misuse of funds collected to provide relief to victims of natural disasters/calamities. “There is an urgent need to frame a policy to keep a check on funds raised from the public for relief and rehabilitation work. I will soon hold a meeting with experts to see what best the government can do to prevent such scams,’’ said law and parliamentary affairs minister S Suresh Kumar. Home minister V S Acharya also expressed similar views.

A week after the worst flood of the century hit the state last September-October, politicians, NGOs and social organisations were quick to raise funds and gather relief material for the affected through padayatras, donation box in hand.

According to officials, crores of rupees collected during such sundry padayatras never reached the victims, and the funds were utilised for other purposes. Not only that, money collected by these societies has been allegedly misused for personal expenses of office-bearers.

An analysis of accounts shows that in 2009, a Bangalore-based social organisation collected donations amounting to Rs 2.16 lakh for flood relief, but spent only Rs 300 out of it. The remaining funds were diverted for other purposes.

Likewise, several lakhs of rupees collected by organisations in the name of tsunami, Orissa cyclone and Gujarat earthquake were also not sent to the victims. It’s not that everybody and anybody can collect funds from the public. There is a stringent law to check arbitrary collection of funds, and police officials have limited this authority only to keep a tab on fraudulent elements during Ganesha festivities.

As per law, those organizations that want to collect funds from the public for a special or noble cause should seek the permission of the police. While grating permission, the police should verify the track record of the organizations and also be satisfied with their commitment and integrity to the cause.


Malaysian company mulling Rs. 4,500 crore tourism project in Mangalore

Karnataka Tourism Department’s eco-tourism wing Jungle Lodges and Resorts planned to build seven more resorts in the State, Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy said on Thursday.

The new resorts would come up in the next two years and involved an investment of Rs. 30 crore, he told reporters after inaugurating the new office of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts here.

The Centre had sanctioned Rs. 24 crore for the project and the State would bear the remaining cost, Reddy said.

The State has received an overwhelming response to the Acqua Marine Park it proposed to set up at Mangalore for which Request for Proposal (RFP) was floated recently.

He said a Malaysia-based company had come forward to invest over Rs. 4,500 crore to set up an integrated Tourism Project in and around Mangalore on the lines of Singapore under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.

The department has asked the firm to present a detailed project report, he said.


Hubli-Illegal mining: Plea to hasten probe

HUBLI: Environmentalists have urged the central government to speed up the CBI inquiry into illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources president S R Hiremath and A S Salanki of Jan Vikas Andolan told reporters here on Saturday that money from illegal mining had led to corruption and power politics.

“There is an immediate need to curb illegal mining by ending the nexus between politicians, officials and miners,” Hiremath said.

Investigating agencies should also look into allegations of tax evasions and violations under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

“The inquiry into illegal mining by several companies, including the Obalapuram Mining Company and Bellary Iron Ore Private Ltd, began well but it stopped because of a stay order issued by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra and the Union governments should work towards vacating the stay,” Salanki said.

Hiremath said they would urge the seven-member multi-disciplinary team constituted by Andhra Pradesh government to expedite survey of the mines and the inter-state border. “We will also urge Karnataka CM to join this initiative,” Hiremath said.

From TOI

India: Karnataka Govt to bring in ordinance on Horticulture varisty

Bangalore Jan 29: The Karnataka Cabinet, which met here today decided to issue an ordinance to establish a Horticulture University to be set up in Bhagalkot, Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister S Suresh Kumar informed here today.

Speaking after the meeting he said an Ordinance would be issued for the Horticulture University at Bagalkot in northern Karantaka.

He said the decision followed after the Bill for the proposed University could not be brought in before the legislature, earlier.

He said the Cabinet had approved introducing Science and Commerce courses in 437 Pre-University Colleges in the state, where only Arts subjects were being taught. The cabinet also approved the release of Rs 175 crore to appoint 2018 lecturers and equip the PU colleges with science labs.

The cabinet also extended the tenure of Justice Jagannath Shetty Inquiry Commission into Police firing on farmers at Haveri, Justice A J Sadashiva Commission on SC and ST and Justice Somashekhar Commission on Church attacks in Karantaka till March 3 this year.

Enhancement of Freedom Fighters Pension from the present Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 effective from this month, also got the cabinet nod.

It was also decided to introduce Electronic Payment to the beneficiaries of various schemes under Social Security Schemes including Old-age, Widow and Physically Challenged persons on pilot basis in Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Dharwad district.

The state cabinet also decided to release Rs 7.20 crore to replace the 40-year-old Crust Gates of Krishna Raja Sagar reservoir across Cauvery river. Replying to questions, the minister said the cabinet also decided to drop cases against sugarcane farmers in five taluks and withdraw criminal cases filed against senior BJP legislator C T Ravi during the last Lok Sabha elections.

From Mangalorean

Mysore: Diverse economy of nature

While ecological services provided by biodiversity may seemingly fail to provide concentrated economic returns that mining ore at Kudremukha might, they come to us practically free, requiring little investment on our part beyond non-interference, write Pavithra Sankaran and MD Madhusudan

The mention of biodiversity brings to mind a multitude of peculiar plants and strange animals that inhabit our planet’s forests, lakes, deserts and oceans. While being undeniably fascinating, one cannot help wondering why there are so many species, and what purpose their existence serves. This question, which otherwise merely stirs an idle curiosity, becomes a fairly serious matter when we confront the fact that an expanding human footprint has come at the cost of thousands of organisms, and continues to imperil the future of millions more.

So, when we speak of conserving biodiversity, should we be concerned at all if we lost forever, say, a drab brown bandicoot or even something as spectacular as a hornbill? Conversely, how much must we deny ourselves of land or water and the resources they hold, merely to secure the future of some strange creature that dwells therein?
Biodiversity conservation places what some see as disproportionate emphasis on wild species, their populations and habitats. In other words, the animal, bird or tree itself becomes the object of conservation interventions and here is where the effort runs into problems. People ask: are a few hundred monkeys more important than the jobs of thousands of miners? Is a bird more important than a community’s livelihood? Is a tree more important than people’s access to basic amenities? Thus, when pitted against human well-being, arguments to conserve biodiversity by saving species begin to seem indefensible.

But there is another way to look at biodiversity in conservation debates. That is, by focusing on what an organism does, rather than on what it is! Scientists call this the functional role of that organism. Processes like pollination, predation, the cycling of nutrients, and the supply and regulation of water are all ecosystem functions performed by a diversity of living organisms. Many of these functions hold enormous economic value for humans. Much of our food is created through the services of pollinators like bees and bats. There would be no coffee, cocoa, mustard, sesame, dozens of fruit and spices without these creatures. No man-made methods yet exist to aerate soil on the scale and with the efficiency that termites and ants do. Bigger and better-known creatures like hornbills and lion-tailed macaques disperse seeds that help in forest regeneration. Seen in this way, wild organisms no longer vie with humans; rather, they become the providers of human welfare.

Nagarhole, Brahmagiri, Talacauvery...
In purely economic terms, the subsidy humans get from the ecological services organisms render is enormous. Imagine for a moment that the forests of Nagarahole, Brahmagiri and Talacauvery did not exist and instead, in their place, we had sprawling settlements, roads, mines and dams. If this were so, Kodagu, without its forest-dwelling pollinators, would no longer be India’s coffee capital; without birds or bats, farms all around would lose more and more crop to pest outbreaks; the Lakshmanatheertha, Kabini and Cauvery would be reduced to mere trickles; dozens of indigenous families collecting and selling forest produce (think honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, frankincense and kokum) would be poorer as would we, without these small luxuries.

While, year on year, the ecological services provided by biodiversity may seemingly fail to provide concentrated economic returns that mining ore might, they come to us practically free, requiring little investment on our part beyond non-interference. What’s more, unlike a mine with a finite lifetime that will run out of ore over a few decades, this suite of services, if conserved, will renew itself and serve us into perpetuity. Surely, if we did our economic sums over longer time-frames, such returns must far outweigh the short-lived burst of profits from a single source like a mine?

The Kudremukha example
Not only are the gains short-term, the costs of replacing myriad ecosystem services with a single economic activity are well-documented: monsoon rains washed down thousands of tons of silt each year from the open cast mines of Kudremukha into the irrigation dams downstream. Silted reservoirs held far less water for irrigation during the dry season. Ore-laden waters also ruined crops over thousands of acres far downstream, causing massive losses to farmers. Tens of thousands of people living by the rivers could no longer drink its silt-laden water, with the government and families alike having to spend on water purification.

At the time the Supreme Court heard the Kudremukha case, it may have seemed absurd to argue that the future of an endangered monkey, or the beauty of a shola-grassland landscape should prevail over the well-being of a profit-making company that employed many. But the regeneration of forest that the monkeys enabled by dispersing seeds, or the supply and regulation of water that the shola-grasslands ensure into perpetuity, are not absurd causes to defend.

Investing in a diverse portfolio
To conserve biodiversity is to invest in human welfare. And to do so wisely, we must to invest in a diverse portfolio of nature, rather than pursue high-risk, high-gain investments that seek to make mines, highways, farms or factories of every forest that remains. The pursuit of unidimensional economic gain despite a multitude of losses has been possible because the profits are generated close to where decisions are made while costs are incurred farther away. Such a model will not serve us for the future.
Biodiversity, the spectacular and baffling assemblage of species of every kind–contributes to the capacity of a system to renew itself, making it alive. When we take away what makes it alive, every resource we harvest after that is finite.

More than half a century ago, Aldo Leopold put it succinctly: The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

(The authors are with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore) – Deccan Herald

Eco-Tourism: Karnataka a Tourist Paradise

Both nature and human efforts have combined to make Karnataka a Tourist Paradise. Its long sea shore has silvery beaches. The tall Western Ghats have lush green forests full of varied fauna, flora and a number of east and west flowing rivers emanating from the Ghats, enrich the soil of the land and contribute to State’s agricultural prosperity. The rivers create many water falls which are a feast to the eyes of the on lookers. The plain area is renowned for its beautiful river banks and projecting wonderful stony hills looking like rock parks that are natural creations. The hilly tracks have many Wildlife sanctuaries. The Gangas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara

Rulers, Bahamanis of Gulbarga and Bidar, Adilshahis of Bijapur, Wodeyars of Mysore, Nayaks of Chitradurga and the Keladi rulers have raised wonderful forts, beautiful temples with impressive plastic art in stone and magnificent mosques and mausoleums of Indo-Saracenic style. The advent of the Portuguese and the English introduced European Renaissance architecture imitation of both gothic and Indo-European styles. They built imposing churches and captivating public as well as private buildings in Karnataka. The National Parks, the Animal and Bird Sanctuaries can provide the tourist the sight of wild animals like elephants, tigers, bisons, deers, blackbucks, peacocks and a variety of animals in their natural habitat. The National Parks also acquaint the visitor with a rich variety of flora like tall trees, bushy plants and creepers that try to entwine him. Karnataka is known for its aromatic sandal wood and broad beautiful trees of pipal and banyan with their hospitable  road shade. If one is spiritually inclined, there are living seers, whether Hindu, Christian or Muslim who can provide one with spiritual solace. There are also tombs of great religious leaders of Hindu,  Muslim, Christian, Jaina or Veerashaiva. In the precincts of these tombs even today people seek spiritual solace.

Karnataka is blessed with many waterfalls and the tallest water fall in India is at Jog (Shimoga District) where the river Sharavati jumps from a height of 293 mts. into four cascades of everlasting beauty. Presently the falls will be active with full zoom only during one month following the rainy season (July- October).The Cauvery at Shivasamudra falls (in Mandya district) has twin jumps,

For More Information – Bangalore Orbit