MANGALURU: If a river could speak, it might say: “I am a river. I have been your lifeline. You don’t have to protect me. You should think about yourself.” And Dakshina Kannada seems to have woken up to the dangers of polluting and exploitation of rivers. When Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner Sasikanth Senthil introduced the concept of River Festival in December, he said, “It is an effort to reclaim the rivers and all fun associated with them. They are not meant to be a place to extract sand alone.” Mangaluru on Saturday witnessed the first River Festival.
Mangaluru is surrounded by two beautiful rivers, River Nethravati and Phalguni, also known as Gurupura River, in North and South respectively. For centuries, these rivers have been nurturing the coastal city starting from drinking water – Mangaluru gets its water from Thumbe dam – as well as irrigating hundreds of agriculture lands in Dakshina Kannada district.
Beyond their regular uses, a river is more than a river for older generations and it means a relationship and bond for them. Eighty-year-old Anandhi from Baikampady fishing community recalls her days on the river.
“There were not many buses or autorickshaws and we used ferries to commute along the river stretch. I used to take fish from Bunder fishing harbour, selling along the river stretches, before winding up for the day. The wait was long for the ferries and life was not that easy those days”, she recalls.
Yatish Baikampady, one of the core committee members of the River Festival committee, presents a picture of how rivers connected the coastal people with other communities in hinterland.
The motorised road transport was at its nascent stages then and people extensively used river transport to ferry things. Starting from fish caught in the coastal region to tiles for construction of houses from Mangaluru city to hinterland – all these were taken in the ferries.
“The coastal people, who went to hinterland with their produce like dried fish, bartered them for other food items like vegetables and grains. Sometimes, they stayed back in the villages when it
turned night. Rivers played a beautiful role of connecting communities from coastal area with rest of the district those days,” he says.
Deputy Commissioner Sasikanth Senthil feels that the River Festival along Phalguni will help people associate more with the rivers. Not only will it boost the river-based tourism but also make people utilise the river front more. There is a proposal to set up 13 permanent jetties along both Nehtravati and Phalguni river stretches. And based around these jetties, various river-based activities — like ferries, river restaurants, water sports — will be promoted.
A few kilometres away from the river festival site, Godfrey D’Souza, 58, who was born and raised on the banks of Phalguni River remembers his childhood days on the river. He says, “We as children used to spend most of the time at the river. There used to be hundreds of mussels (Marvai in the local lingo) which we used to collect for food and variety of fishes as well. And there was lot of sand that time. Time used to fly when we were at the river and we would return after sunset.” He adds, ‘We used to drink the clear and pure water straight from the river.”
Over four decades later, this river is no longer the one Godfrey used to cherish. “The water is extremely contaminated with industrial effluents. The river bank is full of trash. Forget about drinking, if we take bath today, we will contract skin allergy,” he rues.
For Godfrey’s mother Eliza D’Souza, 84, the river was the livelihood. Her brothers Isidore and Filshan D’Souza used to make a living by ferrying people and goods across the river since there were no bridges across River Phalguni during her young age.
“In those days of poverty, the river was the benefactress, though there used to be floods and we had to put up with it.
The river not only gave us livelihood but also fed us with numerous fish and mussels in those days of struggle, and all those are gone with time,” she sighs.
Comparatively, River Nethravati is healthier because there are no industries along the bank. But the rivers are turning saline at an alarming rate and exploited indiscriminately for the sand. The elders wonder how long the rivers would sustain life at the given rate of exploitation.
Elderly Eliza is curious to know what this River Festival is all about. Godfrey explains to her and it doesn’t thrill her. “What we see now is only a water body. My mother is wondering if this festival will bring back that river, that relationship we lost because of the so-called development,” Godfrey says.
But people are optimistic. They feel this festival will bring awareness about the importance of the rivers.
- Originates at Gangamoola in Chikkamagaluru district at Western Ghats
- Considered one of the holy rivers, it flows through pilgrim town Dharmasthala
- It merges with Kumaradhara river at Uppinangady before flowing towards Mangaluru City
- Covering 106 km, it finally empties into Arabian sea at the north side of Mangaluru
There is a proposal to set up 13 permanent jetties along both the Nethravati and Phalguni river stretches. And based around these jetties, various river-based activities — like ferries, river restaurants, water sports — will be promoted.
- Also known as Gurupura River and Pachamagaru River, it originates at Western Ghats in Karkala and flows as streams
- It takes the river form at Venur in Belthangady taluk
- From Venur, the river travels 80 km before emptying into Arabian Sea at the south of Mangaluru city
- It is also known as Gurupura River because it comes through Gurupur, a small town 13 km from Mangaluru
- River Phalguni hosts hundreds of fishing boats as the Old harbour is situated on the banks of this river