Dharmasthala, one of the well known pilgrimage centres on the foothills of the Western Ghats, is now reeling under water crisis. So much so that the temple might not have water even for abhisheka if it does not rain in a fortnight, according to D. Veerendra Heggade, the Pattadhikari of Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala.
The temple gets water for abhisheka from the ‘tirtha gundi’ (jackwell located next to the course of Netravathi river), which is fast going dry, he told reporters in Dharmasthala on Saturday.
“Even God might feel the heat of water scarcity if it does not rain in the next fortnight,” said Mr. Heggade, who on Friday appealed to devotees to postpone their visit to the temple town in view of water scarcity.
No water in lodges
The temple and around 11 lodges on the premises get water from a vented dam built across the Netravathi by the Department of Minor Irrigation. The Dharmasthala Gram Panchayat also draws water from the same dam to supply drinking water to around 150 houses. Water level in the dam, about 3 km away from the town, has plummeted. On the downstream of this dam is the ‘snana ghatta’ (bathing ghat) for the pilgrims, which has no water now.
According to temple sources, the daily footfall here during summer varied between 30,000 and 60,000. The lodges of the temple had the capacity to accommodate between 15,000 and 20,000 people at a time. The water requirement of the temple and the lodges is 45 lakh litres per day.
Umesh K., Panchayat Development Officer, Dharmasthala Gram Panchayat, said that water level in 12 borewells under the jurisdiction of the panchayat, which supplied drinking water to 865 houses, in addition to 150 houses, has also depleted.
Mr. Heggade attributed the scarcity to the tributaries of the Netravathi going dry. This is owing to deforestation and lack of rain in the ghat areas. He said that the government and hydrologists should think about it seriously to take corrective steps.
Voicing a similar concern, Sahyadri Sanchaya, a registered body of green activists in Mangaluru, which has been fighting against the Yettinahole project on the grounds that it would dry up the Netravathi, has said that abuse of the Western Ghats is the main reason for the river going dry during summer in the recent years.
Its convener Dinesh Holla told The Hindu that damaging the nine tributaries of the Netravathi by building resorts, hydro-electric power projects, and roads in shola forests is the primary reason for the Netravathi drying up.
Mr. Holla said that the shola forests hold water like a sponge and release it slowly till summer. When it rains again, the action is repeated till next summer. “The shola forests have been damaged owing to civil works for building roads leading to the project and resorts,” he said, adding that the government can stop the Yettinahole project at least now to prevent further destruction.