Environment Situation in Karnataka

Survival of life on earth depends on the availability of natural resources. The use of these resources has an impact on the environment around us. Water usage leads to its pollution. Coal, oil, minerals and metals are being depleted by increasing usage. A high level of irrigation, unless accompanied by proper drainage, make the soil saline or water-logged. Combustion of fuels results in greater accumulation of carbon dioxide leading to global warming. This use and depletion of resources has an Impact on our environment. About sixty per cent of the land area in the States is under one or other type of agriculture. This is above the national average of 51%. A portion of this land is marginal for agriculture and requires higher inputs but gives lower yields. As subsistence farming is economically nonviable, this land is soon degraded and the soil is eroded. Land that cannot support agriculture could well be suitable for forestry and pasture.

Irrigated land has been rendered saline or water-logged due to water use. Thus in the upper Krishna Project about 71,000 ha, have become either saline or alkaline. In the command area of the Tungabhadra reservoir about 33,000 ha, are either saline or water logged; 24,455 ha are saline or waterlogged in the Malaprabha and Ghataprabha (command) area and 16,500 ha, in the Cauvery basin. Remedial measures are being undertaken in some areas at a high cost.

Pasture lands in the State have been steadily decreasing. During 1956 to 1983, pastures came down by 31% while animal units increased by 30%. Overgrazing is bound to follow together with compacting of the land cattle paths. As a result of the expansion of agriculture and its allied activities, the natural vegetation in the plains has suffered the most. In fact the characteristic vegetation of this habitat namely the scrub forest has almost vanished. The wild life too has practically been wiped out in this tract except in isolated pockets. Similarly in the Western Ghats, the fragmentation of natural vegetation has already reached alarming proportions and this would have serious consequences on the rate of extinction of species. The wild life has been decimated in many parts of the State and its numbers are rapidly dwindling due to loss of habitat, constant fragmentation and illegal killing.

The forest areas in the Western Ghats are being converted into plantations of cardamom, cocoa, rubber, coffee and tea. Simultaneously timber and fuel wood species are replacing the rich tropical forests. These plantations while being commercially remunerative, can cause great harm to the bio-diversity and habitat of the flora andfauna. Vast forest areas have been submerged by hydel projects on the west-flowing rivers. Resettlement of the people displaced by development projects has further reduced the forest area by honey combing the forests with human settlement. Silting is the most serious problems with tanks and reservoirs. The capacity of the tanks goes on decreasing every year, the tank irrigating less and less land, ultimately becoming altogether useless for irrigation when the sluices can no longer be opened. The solution proposed for the silting problem is afforestation of the catchment to the extent possible, banning cultivation in the foreshore lands and construction of small checkdams upstream to trap the silt.

The exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources is likely to have an environmental impact. Increased production of minerals will vary with the location, method and magnitude of operations. Area surrounding the mines will also be affected by the works as well as workers. So the extent and mode of mining must be regulated by ecological considerations for the long term utilisation of resources.

Pollution is the introduction of extraneous materials into environment adversely affecting its normal use. Water pollution is caused mainly by discharge of waste waters into natural water courses and water bodies. Water is being polluted by industries and human habitations. Industrial effluents can cause organic, chemical and even hazardous pollution. In order to control this pollution, effluent standards have been prescribed industry-wise. Thermal pollution caused by water with temperatures above the ambient water temperature is also to be controlled. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was enacted
by Parliament on 23rd March 1974, The greatest water pollution in the State is caused by Urban Agglomerations. It is obligatory on the authorities to treat the sewage before discharging it.
However 139 of the 172 Municipalities do not have functional underground drainage or sewage treatment plants.

FORESTS in Karnataka

FORESTS
Kamataka State has a geographical area of 1,91,791 sq km of which 38,284 sq.km (19.96 per cent) is under the control of the Forest Department. The forests are classified as reserved (28,689.99 sq.km), protected (3,930.70 sq. km), unclassed (5,230.99 sq. km), village (124.2 sq.km) and private (308.42 sq. km) forests. The unclassed areas include C and D class lands which are mostly barren, transferred from the Revenue department. The percentage of forest area to geographical area in the State is less the all-India average of about 23%, and 33% prescribed in the National Forest policy. The area under forests in the neighbouring States is as follows : Andhra pradesh 62 lakh ha (9% of the total area of the Country), Maharashtra 54 lakh ha (8%), Tamilnadu 22 lakh ha (3%) and Kerala 11 lakh ha (2%).

About two lakh ha. of forest area is lost for non-forestry purposes since 1956 to 1986-87 and the details are as follows: For hydroelectric purposes : 22,194 ha, electricity lines 1,688 ha, roads: 330 ha, tanks – 35,840 ha, townships- 1,791 ha, mining -42,676 ha, agriculture – 67,217 ha, rehabilitation – 25, 820 ha, other purposes 6,357 ha and total 2,03,913 ha. The outturn of major forest produce for the year 1991-92 is as follows: 1) Timber – a) Rosewood 4,522 M3, b)Teak -3,376 M3 c)Other kinds of timber – 41,253 M3 2)Pulpwood – 213 M3 4)Matchwood – 131 M3, 5)Sawn Timber – 618 M3 6) Timber in round
pole – 32,067 M3 7)Firewood – 1,66,039 M3, 8)Bamboo – 19,299 M.T. and Sandalwood 1,418 M3.

Though 20% of the land area is classified as forests (3,86 million ha) in the State, only about 11% is well wooded. The remaining area is in different stages of degradation. The State is facing shortage of fuel wood, fodder and timber as the demand has increased considerably due to the increase in population of both human and cattle. The forests in the State are managed as per the prescriptions of the working plans which are prepared for periods of 10 to 15 years after taking into consideration the type of forests, the condition of the existing crop, the demand for various forest produce and the requirements of the area for maintenance of ecological balance. Karnataka Government has established many National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries to protect important species. The following is the list of National parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries (WS) and their year of establishment.

There are five National Parks and 21 wildlife sanctuaries covering an extent of 6,360 Sq. km. of the total forest area. They comprise of evergreen to scrub type of forests thus forming a network of representative ecosystem to conserve endangered species of plants as well as animals and birds. As per the 1989 census of the larger mammals, there were 257 tigers, 283 panthers, 4,418 elephants and 5,473 bisons. As per the Census of Wildlife population conducted during 1997-98 there were 395 tigers, 1,360 gaur, 6,185 elephants, 817 panthers, 2,324 bears, 15,760 wild bears, 23,850 deer, 8,484 bisons, 4,998 sambars and 957 foxes.

FLORA in Karnataka

FLORA
Karnataka State has a rich and varied vegetation resulting from several lines of plant migration conditioned by climate, soil and topography. Biotic factors have in many areas modified the original climaxes evolved through the centuries. Considering topography, bio-climate and soil, the vegetation of Karnataka could be grouped under the following four categories viz, 1) Littoral vegetation, 2) West coast tropical vegetation. 3) Upland deciduous vegetation and 4) Southern tropical montane vegetation. Littoral vegetation : There are two types of littoral vegetation in Karnataka. The first is terrestrial on the sand dunes and the second, halophytic along estuaries. The limitations imposed by the scorching sun, shifting sands and salt-laden winds are overcome by special plants called psammophytes. The dunes above the tide mark are held down by a number of sand binders. Sundews and bladder worts often form a seasonal carpet on the wet sands of the rear beach.

Limited mangrove formations occur in the riverine estuaries where the salinity gradient rises rapidly towards the sea. The best examples of halophytic vegetation are near Kundapur and Gokarna. It is mostly of the Rhizophora – Avicenia – Bruguiera type. The trees and shrubs have to overcome the restrictions of a marshy saline habitat with strong tidal currents and fluctuations in water level as well as the asphyxiating conditions of a slushy soil. These littoral plant formations have ecological role in the balance of nature. The psammophytes help in preventing the sand of the beaches from being blown landwards on to agricultural lands and human habitations. They also protect the beaches for their recreational value. Mangroves stabilise the river embankments against erosion. They afford breeding ground to several fishes and other marine animals.

Moist Deciduous Coastal Vegetation: The natural vegetation in this region immediately to the east of the coastline is of the secondary moist deciduous type. It is sometimes considered a degraded stage of an evergreen climax. In the broader coastal low land of Dakshina Kannada, the Hopea – Syzygium- Holigama series is usually found with dense understorey of shrubs like Grewia, Ixora and Psychotria. Lianas especially Hugonia mystax and Uvaria riorum are frequent. The secondary moist deciduous forests are better preserved towards the foothill of the Ghats. The biotic factor which is high in the vicinity of the Coastal urban centres is less towards the Ghats.

West Coast Tropical Evergreens: The lower slopes and valleys of the Ghats present fine examples of the West Coast tropical evergreen forests. These close canopy forests are nurtured by the heavy seasonal precipitation to form a climax vegetation. Erect buttressed trunks, unbranched for 20 or more metres fan out to meet the contiguous tree tops. There are several variations in the dominant canopy trees. The commonest association is of EUpterocarpus ~ Kingiodendron-Vataria between 70 to 600 metres above mean sea level. There are several other plant forms in these forests. The biological diversity and its
spatial distribution within the forest apportions solar energy as effectively in the conversion of water and carbon-di-oxide into life sustaining organic compounds.Upland moist Deciduous Vegetation: The decreasing rainfall on the leeward side of the mountain gives rise to another climax type – the upland moist deciduous vegetation. While in leaf, the canopy of these forests is dense, during the dry months there is a short period of leaf fall to avoid loss of water due to transpiration. Flowering of the trees occurs during the leafless period. This moist deciduous belt running from Belgaum to Kodagu is the habitat of the Tectona – Dillenia – Lagerstroemia – Terrrtinalia series which include teak, matti, kanagalu, nondi, which are local names. Extensive areas on the eastern fringe of the Ghats were once covered with clumps of bamboos. Upland dry deciduous vegetation : The bio climate of the eastern part of the Maidan permits a climax dry deciduous vegetation in several protected areas. The canopy is open and the trees leafless during the driest months.
Flowering and fruiting are generally far advanced before the first flush of new leaves appears with the conventional showers in April-May.

Upland thorn and scrub : There are several parts of Chitradurga, Davanagere, Bellary, Raichur, Koppal, Gulbarga and Bidar districts where broad leaved deciduous forests give place to armed trees with tiny leaflets. Some remaining patches of these forests are made-up of Acacia, Albizia and Hardwickia. (Jali, Bilwara, ennemara being local names). The Maidan is dotted with numerous irrigation tanks usually supporting an interesting aquatic Jlora, Southern Tropical Montane Vegetation: An altitudinal variation of the tropical evergreens, is found above 1,500 metres especially at Kudremukh, and in the Bababudan and Biligirirangan Hills. This vegetation of grassy meadows and low wooded patches forms the Southern Tropical Montane Vegetation. The grassy mountain meadows present a quick succession of herbs that appear in short lived profusion. A good part of the wet forests has been greatly altered by biotic factors. The vegetation dynamics in Karnataka indicate several changes in the natural vegetation due to biotic factors especially human intervention. Inhabited coastal areas present a thick canopy of coconut trees. The climax formations of dry types of vegetation with a distinct canopy, an understorey of shrubs and a ground cover of herbs are confined to a few inaccessible pockets or to areas of reserved forests. Felling for fuel and grazing especially by goats threatened even these remnants of the original plant cover. The forest unless covered is slowly converted into grasslands with scattered trees. In some areas forests have been cleared and low lying areas are converted into paddy fields while the hilly terrain is often planted with plantation crops.

FAUNA in Karnataka

FAUNA
The State of Karnataka has a rich heritage of flora and fauna. The hill chain of Western Ghats is the only part of the State to retain some semblance of its natural biological heritage. This last refuge of the native fauna is subjected to rapid decimation with the coining up of several hydro-electric and irrigation projects, mining, the accelerated pace of forest exploitation and the increasing demand of land for plantation and crop husbandry. The area under forests in Karnataka today amounts to 38.72 lakh hectares i.e. 20 per cent of the total land area of the State. With the notable exception of Bonnet Macaque, which is under widespread religious protection throughout the State, the larger wild mammals are almost confined to the forest areas. The wildlife bearing forest areas of Karnataka are divided into six regions viz, Coastal region, crestline of the Western Ghats, Malnad, Old Mysore Plateau, Kollegal hills and the Maidan. The natural distribution of animals is largely determined by vegetation.

Region-I – Coastal Region : The district of Uttara Kannada and parts of Belgaum constitute the northern-most sector of the hill tracts of Karnataka. These hilly tracts have vegetation ranging from evergreen to dry deciduous types. Due to Kalinadi hydro-electric project and a great deal of Iron and Manganese ore mining, the habitat is highly fragmented and the forest cover is greatly disturbed. In this region, as per observed data, the gaur are scattered, sambar are much more widely distributed. Wild pig is most abundant and spotted deer is seen in majority of areas. Elephants are found scattered over a wide region. The Carnivores-tiger, panther and wild dog occur in low populations. This region was extremely rich in wild life in the past especially tiger and gaur.

Region II – Crestline of Western Ghats: This region lies south of Uttar Kannada. There is a narrow belt of forest following this crestline of Ghats. The vegetation ranges from evergreen to moist deciduous. Most of the major animals occur in this region but their population on the whole is very poor. Only a few isolated herds of elephants are found here. The gaur and sambar are frequently seen while the spotted deer occurs sporadically. Barking deer and sloth bear are also reported to be present. Wild pig is omnipresent. The Canivores – tiger, panther and wild dog are present but their occurrence rating is very low. This region is a poor habitat for most large herbivores and consequently for carnivores.

Region III – Malnad : This is characterised by dry and moist deciduous vegetation. The area is marked by conspicuous hills like the Bababudangiri range. This region has one of the best wildlife concentrations only second to Mysore plateau in the State, harbouring populations of elephants, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, wild pig etc. The anthropogenic pressures over this area are much less and hence the wildlife is somewhat less molested. The presence of perennial rivers, reservoirs and plenty of bamboos, grass and other fodder species with a moderate rainfall makes this region an ideal habitat for elephants.

Region IV – Mysore plateau : The western edge of Mysore Plateau, flanked on three sides by the southern-most ranges of the Sahyadris, Nilgiris and eastern spur of hills towards the Biligirirangan Hills, is an undulating plain and is covered by moist and dry deciduous forests. This area has the richest wildlife concentrations in South India, harbouring large herds of elephants, spotted deer, wild pig.^wild dog, sloth bear, gaur, sambar and occassionally tiger and cats.

Region V : Kollegal Hills : This hilly area is an eastern spur of the Western Ghats. Apart from the moist deciduous or semi-evergreen forests on these hills, the rest of the region is covered by dry deciduous forest mostly degraded into scrub. Elephant, sambar, spotted deer and wild pig occur throughout this region. The wild dogs have fairly extensive distribution, though tiger, gaur and panther are much more restricted. Almost all the wild life species occur in this region in small numbers except elephants.

Region VI – Maidan : There is very little forest in the Maidan areas on the Deccan Plateau and whatever is left is in highly degraded form. Ranebennur is notable for the occurrence of good herds of black bucks. Wolves are becoming rare but have been reported from several places in this plains.

About Karnataka

Karnataka has a rich heritage, inspiring its people to create a bright future. With its special geographical location full of variety-its rivers, hills, valleys, plains, forests and resources-the State is known for its tourist and industrial potential. Its long history of over 2,000 years has left many beautiful forts, tanks, temples, mosques and towns of historical importance to the posterity. These old towns have grown to be industrial, commercial and educational centres. They are provided with all modern facilities. Bordered by the Western Ghats with tall peaks and lush greenery in the west, the tableland is fertile because of its black soil and river and tank irrigation facilities. The coastal strip to the west of the Ghats is renowned for its silvery beaches and rich green paddy fields. Karnataka has rich religious and artistic traditions. The land has been
described by a poet in a stone record in the 15th Century in following words:

A mine of good discipline,
The dwelling place of Brahma,
The land which had acquired great fortune,
The birthplace of learning and wealth,
The true home of unequalled splendid earnestness
Thus distinguished in many ways
Shone the lovely Karnata Country.

The temples of antiquity speak of the piety of their devotees. The agraharas and mathas spread all over vouch to the scholarly pursuits to which people were attached. The hero stones strewing the land speak of the heroic traits of the warrior race of antiquity. Long traditions of growing cotton are clear evidence to once flourishing rich textile industry. The ports along the coast remind one of the rich overseas trades that flourished through them. The black soil plains speak of its agricultural potential. The State’s human resources with racial and religious varieties and professional skills promise to make it a hub of industriousness.