Sand extraction poses threat to fish sanctuary

Visitors feeding the fishes in Tunga river near Chibbalagudde in Tirthahalli taluk of Shivamogga district.   | Photo Credit: VAIDYA

Extraction of sand from the banks of the Tunga near Chibbalagudde in Tirthahalli taluk is posing a threat to the fish sanctuary here that hosts 27 species of fish.

Chibbalagudde hosts a Siddivinayaka temple and the Tunga is teeming with the majestic Mahseer fish that can grow up to seven feet in length. Puntius Pulchellus, Puntius Arulius, and Katla varieties of fish are also found here. The pools in the river, the perennial water flow, the sandy banks, and the shade provided by fruit-bearing trees on the river bank have all made this an ideal dwelling place for fish.

Apart from the puffed rice offered by devotees, the fish also relish the fruits that fall into the river from the trees. The 3-km stretch of the river here has been declared a fish sanctuary by the State government.

However, the permission sanctioned by the Department of Mines and Geology for extraction of sand from the Tunga riverbank in Dabbanagadde, nearly 100 metres from Chibbalagudde, has led to apprehension that it will disturb the flow of water. Vinayak, a resident of Chibbalagudde, told The Hindu that more than 50 truckloads of sand have been extracted daily since January. This will loosen the riverbank and alter the course of the river, as a result of which the fish may migrate to other places or even cease to exist. Mr. Vinayak said that though the residents had requested the Tirthahalli Tahshildar and the Shivamogga Deputy Commissioner to stop the extraction, no action has been taken.

The scenic charm of Chibbalagudde was a source of inspiration for poet-laureate Kuvempu and Jnanpith award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy. The flight of heron birds on the banks of the Tunga here was compared to “God’s signature” by Kuvempu in his poem ‘Devaru Ruju Madidanu’. Melige, a village located adjacent to Chibbalagudde, was the native place of Ananthamurthy’s mother, and the novelist used to spend time in seclusion on the riverbank in Chibbalagudde.

Bhaskar, an environmental activist, said the opinion of locals and the gram panchayat was not sought prior to the grant of permission for sand extraction. Of the 98 blocks on riverbanks in the district that have rich deposits of sand, permission for extraction has been given only on 37 blocks, for the remaining blocks fall in Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA), as per the recommendations of the Kasturirangan panel on conservation of the Western Ghats. This should apple to Chibbalagudde too, he said.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 1:43:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/sand-extraction-poses-threat-to-fish-sanctuary/article26559483.ece

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