Making a case for community-led wetland conservation
The villagers of Bashettihalli are in a jubilant mood. The Bashettihalli kere (tank) has been brimming and overflowing since the past couple of days. The tank that has remained dry for more than 20 years and had not overflowed since three decades, is now full with water. This year, Bashettihalli’s waters are even reaching the cascade wetland of Chikkatumakuru and further downstream to join the seasonal Arkavathy river.
The reason is beyond just copious rainfall. Despite the quantity of rainfall being above-average for the past three years, the waters of Bashettihalli didn’t spill over downstream. So, what made the difference this year? It’s the consistent community-led efforts in restoring connectivity to upstream wetlands, that paid off.
Bashettihalli, originally built for supplying irrigation and drinking water had degraded due to siltation in the inflow channels resulting in drastic reduction in the water spread area. As a result the groundwater was exploited to an extent that the water table had started to recede at a rapid pace.
In 2016, people from various walks of life, were brought together on a common platform to rejuvenate Bashettihalli, through three-year community-led wetland conservation initiative by WWF-India, supported by NOKIA. In collaboration with a multi stakeholder committee comprising communities, industries, gram panchayat members, under the leadership of the Bangalore Rural District Administration, the team took up rejuvenation of Bashettihalli tank.
A multi-pronged approach, including social mobilization, awareness creation, and technical interventions, was adopted and 1.7 km of channels connecting upstream tanks (Arrenehalli-Guddhalli) with Bashettihalli, were restored.
Additionally, a five square km catchment area was restored through plantation of over 1000 native saplings, over 1,90,000 cubic meters of silt was removed from the wetland, de-weeding and strengthening of bunds were undertaken and by mid-2019 results were visible in the form of increased inflow into the tank.
The community witnessed water inflow into the Bashettihalli kere in June 2019, as a result of the re-establishment of the connectivity to the upstream wetlands, thanks to the combined efforts of wetland managers, communities, industries, Gram Panchayat members and Government officials.
The wetland was bought back to its previous glory by the conservation initiatives in 2019 and later it is well maintained by the Panchayat and the local community under the aegis of the multi-stakeholder committee.
The water spread area of the tank gradually increased due to the constant inflow of water since 2019 from the catchment and upstream tanks, and due to continued maintenance of wetland and its catchment, the water is now finally spilling over from the wetland and supporting the flow of the Arkavathy river.
The multi-stakeholder committee is elated to see joint-rejuvenation efforts in restoring tank-river connectivity, bearing fruit.
“I could see a visible positive change in the Bashettihalli tank in its present state. It used to be in a sad state since last 30 years. Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved in the restoration of Bashettihalli, including Sri Kareegowda, Former DC, WWF India and the industries”, says Mr. Anjaneyulu, CEO, Doddaballapura Industries Association
Mr. Krishnappa, Former member of Gram Panchayat, Bashettihalli, Doddaballapura says, “I feel happy to see Bashettihalli tank restored to its past glory. It has increased our responsibilities in maintaining the wetland and addressing future threats.”
Figure 1: Top left: Bashettihalli wetland in a degraded condition in 2016, and its condition of wetland in 2018. Middle: Rejuvenated wetland with water in 2019. Bottom: Bashettihalli wetland filled till FTL, 2022. Top right: GIS map showing the area of extend from 2016 to 2021
Better governance and mitigation of pollution, coupled with rejuvenation, demand management and people’s action, can go a long way in restoring many tanks in the Arkavathy basin. WWF India, with the support of HSBC aims to provide technical support to stakeholders and conduct research to build a scientific base for implementation of restoration interventions through nature based solutions.