The research by Dr TV Ramachandra, associate faculty at the IISc and the other research scholars- S Vinay, S Bharath, M D Subhash Chandra, and Bharath H Aithal says the riverine ecosystems that interconnect biotic components and provide goods and services for the society, the degradation of these ecosystems has been the primary cause for increasing water insecurity, raising the need for integrated solutions to freshwater management. “Sustainable management of freshwater flows is fundamental to the four dimensions of development, namely social needs, economic development, ecological integrity and environmental limits. However, unplanned developmental activities during the past four decades have been altering the land cover affecting physical integrity, bio-geochemical cycling, hydrological regimes, biodiversity, etc,” the research reads.
The analysis of landscape dynamics across the west-flowing major rivers of Uttara Kannana district (Central Western Ghats) reveals degradation of forests from 74.19% in 1973 to 48.04% in 2018 with loss of evergreen forests from 56.07% to 24.85% due to large-scale developmental activities such as construction of dams, power projects, forest based industries – paper mills, expansion of roads, urbanization, encroachment for horticultural and agricultural practices .
The researchers have also credited the construction of dams along river Kali post 1975 without appropriate rehabilitation, and catchment restoration measures, increase in monoculture plantations such as teak, eucalyptus, acacia by the Forest Department as part of social forestry scheme, conversion of area under forests to agriculture, horticulture or private plantations setting up of forest-based industries, and nuclear power plant at Kaiga in the midst of evergreen forests as the primary reasons behind the degradation of the forest.
However, the researchers in conclusion have suggested that the lost natural evergreen to semi-evergreen forests can be done through appropriate conservation and management practices.
“Eco-hydrological assessment across riverscapes of varied levels of anthropogenic stress highlights the water retention capability of a riverscape dominated by vegetation of native species to sustain the local societal and ecological demands, which is useful in the integrated management of riverscapes (watershed, catchment or basin) in India by the respective government agencies.” the research says