HUBBALLI: waters, with the Krishna River in full flow, is a ‘site’ to behold. It is one of the most scenic, biodiversity-rich ecosystems. Here is something more to cheer about. The vast backwaters of Lal Bahadur Shahstri Dam, also known as Almatti Dam, in Vijayapura, could become Karnataka’s first Ramsar Site.
The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an international treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. India has 26 wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention.
Though Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have more than one wetland under the Ramsar-protected sites, Karnataka which is home for large wetlands and has bio-diveristy-rich areas has never been able to make it to the list.
The forest department and senior conservationists now feel that over the years the backwaters of Almatti have created a unique ecosystem providing the much-needed shelter to the water birds. In the last few years the number of migratory birds has doubled forcing the department to take up measures to convert the site into a protected area.
Senior environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy notes how the vast wetland area has evolved in the last decade creating a unique ecosystem. “The Almatti backwaters rightly fits the criteria prescribed by the Ramsar Convention. The vast wetland area has large islands making it a perfect place for bird nesting. This year the flamingos came in large numbers and stayed till the end of June. The number of crocodiles and migratory birds too is increasing. The area is now demanding regulations and protection. There are some gaps such as illegal fishing, cattle grazing which need to be regulated by the foresters,” he says.
The Benagaluru Environment Trust has completed a documentary on Almatti backwaters which will be used as a document while pitching for Ramsar status. The local forest division under Deputy Conservator of Forests P K Nayak and senior conservationist M R Desai from Bagalkot have prepared a list of birds, the number of islands, protected areas along the wetland and other specifications.
Nayak says the Almatti dam area can be developed into a tourist attraction in North Karnataka. “Out of the total course of Krishna river (1,392 km), it flows in about 480 km in Karnataka. The backwaters have created an ecosystem for birds, reptiles and mammals which need to be conserved and protected. The DPR for Ramsar Site is in the final process and soon will be sent to the state government for approval and further action,” he says.
“The forest department had proposed the Magadi lake in Gadag and Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary in Mandya for Ramsar Convention. However, there has been no communication or development on this. But Almatti backwaters seems to be fulfilling the criteria of Ramsar status,”says senior IFS officer Vijay Mohan Raj.
Bagalkot environmentalist M R Desai says the proposal of wetland area for Ramsar Site is quite large compared to protected wetlands in India. “Both Bagalkot and Vijayapura are low rainfall-receiving districts and large patches of forests here are either barren lands or scrub jungles. But along the Krishna river is a vast catchment area now developing into a unique ecosystem in the middle of a dryland,” he says.