Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plastic pollution control at Dabguli, Urigam forest range

Dabguli belongs to the Urigam range in Hosur Reserve forest under the Tamil Nadu Forest Dept. Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery surrounded by hills on the one side from Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary a haven for the wild animals, especially the elephants that descends down to quench their thirst.

A temple dedicated to Basava stands on a bare hillock in Dabguli.  This temple sees a trickle of devotees descending down throughout the year. Every once a year around the time of Shivaratri a gathering of 15-20 thousand people swarm this once peaceful region to be a part of the Jathre organized by the surrounding villages for 2 days.
During the rapid survey conducted jointly with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department,  Kenneth Anderson Nature Society who has been devoted to conservation activities in this region, witnessed Dabguli littered profusely with all the paper and plastic waste. KANS took up the initiative  to minimize pollution the next year, 2011. KANS requested the planning committee of the Dabguli Jathre to use plates made out of leaves as against paper/plastic plates. When the committee pictured financial constraint as reason to opt the plastic plates, KANS bore 50% of the costs for the Areca leaf plates and secured a vendor as well to buy 30,000 plates. The Dabguli committee who appreciated our concern dug up pits at several places to collect the plates for dumping.

 On the D day a team of 21 KANS members placed  banners urging the pilgrims attending the Jathre not to litter the sacred forests. Additionally they set up baskets made out of jute in front of the shops that had mushroomed in the wake of the jathre to collect the plastic waste arising in the form of tea cups, bags, ice cream cups etc., KANS also screened the movie " Nagarhole Video - Tales from an Indian Jungle" by Shekhar Dattatri, to the audience to bring home the message of conservation. The following morning the volunteers spread out and collected all the plates and plastic waste scattered and dumped them into the pits.

One of the many concerns that arose during the Jathre and that needs serious attention from the forest department were the procurement of fuel-wood which was collected without abandonment (Remember nothing goes waste in a forest, the dry wood is home to many species)  Loudspeakers and music system that kept a steady stream of songs and talks throughout the 2 days and the wandering tourists who camped anywhere and everywhere recklessly.

The forests of Dabguli have been seriously hampered by the stream of tourists who disregarding the laws of the forest, camp here without obtaining the permission from the FD and cause a lot of disturbance to the local fauna, a jathre in such big scale with ambitions to billow out into a cattle fair, building guest houses, renovating the temple in grand scale, laying down a tar road plus electricity will be a death blow to the already suffering forests of Hosure FD.

Prasanna Vynatheya gives below his personal experience volunteering for the Dabguli pollution control 

Malarnthum Malaratha ………… Nadiyum vilayadi kodiyu kalaisaindi …
  Song from the past came drifting through the forest across the Cauvery as the sleep too came drifting in snatches, it was well past midnight. We were all tired, tired of the last lap of 7+ kms through the tough terrain running parallel to the river. Yet, all smiles and talks amongst 23 of us as we rested under the beautiful starry night.
  A little romantic but that’s it, just to give you the background. Yes the song was Tamil that came floating at Uginiyam, whereas 7 kms away at Dabguli it was all Kannada; yes Kannada songs, Kannada announcements, Kannada skits and drama, though it is Tamil Nadu officially.
  The Dabguli Jatre (Fair) is being celebrated only since recent times (some say 5 yrs ). Otherwise Dabguli was a very lonely stretch of Cauvery river tens of kms downstream from Mekadatu. In our previous trips we have recorded rare & disappearing species as Four horned antelope, Grizzled Giant Squerril, Otters etc at this very region.
  Despite the last 14kms of muddy track through thick forest, there were around fifteen thousand people from the surrounding regions. They had come in small and medium trucks, tractors and the usual two wheelers to this Jatre.
  Families found rocks and stones to sit and watch the proceedings that started with the usual inaugural address from the few organizers, followed by variety entertainment that was preceded by our KANS projection of Nagarahole.
  There were about five Swamyjis on the stage and all of them spoke too, plus the three to four persons from the organizing group. From their talks one thing was certain; they all wanted this Jatre to be held every year and with more and more pomp and festivities. One of the Swamijis made a loud appeal to all
·        To focus their energy to make his dream of including a Cattle Fair at Dabguli.
·        Another Swamyji said he was looking forward to contribution from the people to help them build facilities for the devotees.
  But two swamyjis strongly condemned the drinking that was rampant all around that place even on the day of the Jatre. To quote his exact words ‘Inside the temple I got the smell of incense and when I stepped outside it was all alcohol’. The first Swamyji who spoke, begged the gathering to keep the place’s sanctity, and to make this a place of pilgrimage, to come there to desist and getaway from their vices, and, not make it a place for vices.
  In a way it was heartening to hear the Swamyjis boldly condemning the sordid practice of consuming alcohol in that sacred place, and at the same time it was a revelation to know that these indulgences happen to a great extent even at this place where the primary reason for visiting the place is for the Temple of Basava (Shiva’s vahana the Bull)
  There was power graciously granted by the Electricity Board, the road was being improved, and there was talk about building guest houses etc. for the devotees. It is not difficult to surmise that it is only a matter of time before this quite stretch of Cauvery will become another Mekadatu or Muthatti. Well friends let me tell you that when a group of us managed to reach Mutthatti on bikes in 1975 or 76, we were the very first of the visitors to do so on bikes. There was nothing there except a small temple amongst huts. Today I believe it is a popular picnicking place, spoilt by plastic and garbage and of course noisy people.
  My intention of recording these things is to give us all a clear understanding of what is happening there at Dabguli. What was also heartening though is that we managed to arouse in them a feeling of responsibility towards the environment. This was more than once emphasized by the speakers on the dais, who constantly kept requesting the gathering to keep the place clean and not to litter all around. We have scored a definitive point in that sense.
  As it stands, given the turnout at the Fair and the voice of determination of the organizers and the supporting presence of the Swamyjis, we can deduce that it is definitely going the way that we at KANS dread to think.
  Another song that floated upstream was again a very old Tamil song that goes like ‘sailair aluva silair cerepa, Naan aledekonde cerepae’
 My dear tamil friends please forgive me for any misspellings or distortions in the above lines.
With growing concern
Jatre happened on: 5th & 6th of Feb. 2011

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