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Arkavathi river cascades

Dear friends,
as all of you probably know Bangalore was receiving 100% of drinking water from Hesaraghatta and T.G.Halli reservior in the olden days. Even after explosive growth of the metro bangalore was receiving 20% of the drinking water from these reserviors. These 2 reserviors are situated in the tank cascade system of 2 river tributories called Arkavathi and kumudhwathi.

Arkavathi river originates in Nandi hills of chikkaballapur district, and Hulukudi hills of Doddaballapura thaluk. Kumudhwathi originates in shivaganga hills of Nelamangala thaluk. The tanks are in a cascading order; there are small tanks in the upper catchment area and as it flows to down streams the area of the tanks increase. These 2 tributories spread across 4351 square kms of catchment area.

We are travelling across the tank cascades of these 2 river tributories for the past 3 weeks to study the status of tanks and water streams. Almost all the 64 tanks we visited out 1250 tanks in the river basin are silt casted for nearly 4 to 5 feets in water holding areas. The convex shape of the tanks have become concave shaped because of heavy siltation. The connecting streams and water courses have been encroached by many people who live in the vicinity. The encroachers  seems to be having political nexus to such a daring but shameless act of encroaching the water bodies and streams.

There is about 55% of eucalyprus monoculture plantations across the catchment area of both Arkavathi and kumudhwathi basins. Eucalyptus is called as the MALARIA  plant since it is used only in the swampy areas to absorb moisture and to inhibit mosquito breeding. Eucalyptus impacts the soil very badly with release of chemicals and these chemicals suppress the local biological diversity. Eucalyptus is unlike other decideous trees. Decideous trees like pongamea shed their leaves as the summer approaches to retain the moisture in the stems. Pongamea releases glucose to the soil to absorb nutrients,pongamea maintains soil organic carbon and nitrogen equilibrium to sustain the soil biological web.

Eucalyptus is adversely impacting the hydrological cycle and the there is disturbances in the cloud condensation. The rains have become sporadic and the water in flow has drastically reduced;among 64 tanks we visited there was water in only 6 tanks.


The only way out from this crisis is to take up suitable remedial measures to mitigate the worsening water crisis. 1) Immediate water shed treatment of land with 33% of agroforestry and alley farming with sequential subsistence crops.2) Desiltation of tanks and water stream restoration. This requires some policy changes at the government level and executing the existing acts and policies. The government departments need to work in co ordination with each other with complete community participation.

If we dont take up immediate measures Bangalore is sure to get suffocated not only with water scarcity but also with oxygen scarcity.

We have started our journey through the cascades of tanks; we will come with a deatailed story with facts and data.



Take help of the Arghyam trust

Mr Nagaraj,

You are not the only person to make the observation that Eucalyptus trees suck out all the water. When i was travelling to Devarayanadurga in Tumkur district, my friend who was a lawyer in Bihar also travelling with me, observed the same thing.

I believe that Sri Nandan Nilekani (CEO of Infosys) is a patron of a trust called the 'Arghyam Trust'. This trust is involved in revitalisation of local water resources.

I think you should write to them.

Rithesh's picture

Great efforts Nagaraj

You are doing a wonderful job Nagaraj. I look forward for your detailed report at the end of your project.

There are few others also working on reviving Arkavathy river.

Mr Mahesh Bhatt - a photojournalist and Mr. Vishwanath ( and a few others have been doing a lot of study on how to revive Arkavathy river and Hessargatta Lake (which is fed by Arkavathy).

May be you should join forces with them and take this thing forward.

The other major problem in this region has been sand mining - it has completely destroyed the river beds. Though the mining is officially banned in the whole of Kolar and Chikballapur districts - illegal mining continues to thrive.
Naveen's picture

Great Work !

Excellent Work being done - & await the final report.

Ravi_D's picture


Informative piece. It is encouraging that someone is looking at these things. Loking forward to the details.


L.C.nagaraj's picture

Arkavathi river basin

Dear friends,
We have been in touch with Mr.Vishwanath of Arghyam and Mahesh Bhat. We are trying to get in touch with the advocates group which is working on Nandi hills and Arkavathi conservation.

SVARAJ the NGO i am working with had started working in one microwatershed. We have started treating the slopy lands. This particulara tank near Chikkarayappanahalli is not just an ordinary tank but it is a natural spring.

The community had formed an organisation called Channarayaswamy jalanayana abhvriddi samithi with close collaboration with SVARAJ. I am requesting all of you to get in touch with SVARAJ.

May be we can meet and contemplate on how to sustain various activities with regard to Arkavathi river rejuvenation.

Last month i have done a transect journey across the basin area and sand mining in
Arkavathi is completely stopped . But in some remote areas there is some sporadic sand mining activities.

I am restarting my journey through Nelamangala to transect Arkavathi tank cascades in  Kumudhwathi sub basin in Nelamangala and Magadi thaluk. I am leaving early morning. Any friends in these areas are requested to be in touch with us.
I cant access internet during journey. Friends from Nelamangala and Magadi are requested to be in touch with me directly.


L.C.nagaraj's picture

Arkavathi river cascade system

Dear friends,
So far we have travelled in 12 cascades of Arkavathi tank cascade system visiting 134 tanks of small,medium and major ones. These tank cascades spread across Doddaballapur,Nelamangala,Magadi,Ramanagara,Kanakapura and parts of Anekal thaluks.

In Doddaballapur thaluk 55% of land is under eucalyptus monoculture, there is water in only one tank out of 30 tanks across 3 cascades.The ground water table has gone down till 400 metres.

In magadi thaluk  there is about 1% of eucalyptus monoculture,more biodiversity and number of bore wells are minimum compared to Doddaballapura. We found water in 8 tanks out of 10. Only the tank cascades of Magadi thaluk are contributing to T.G.Halli reservior.

Currently we are marking the cascades and collecting data from government deprtments. We will come out with an analysis on the deterioration of Arkavathi basin.

We are confident that if we bring in a paradigm shift in the land use pattern by bringing 33% of the land under tree crops of diverse varieties it is possible to rejuvenate Arkavathi.
1) the water pumping from the aquifer to be declined 2) shift in to tree crops of diverse varieties of tree species,3) regreening all the hydrospheres under clean development mechanism of United nations frame work on climate change  for which India is a signatory.

This is not just rejuvenation of the bygone splendor of Arkavathi but ultimately to adress climate change.

blrsri's picture

Cut the trees..!!

Whatever you are doing here Nagaraj is highly commendable..


Coming to the eucalyptus trees..I read above statements only about them affecting the watertable etc..but nothing about what to do there!

I would say we can get these trees cut by the ever hungry tree cutters of blr..atleast here they would help in a cause!

Once these trees are cut, maybe can organize a reforestation campaign to plant more nature friendly trees..

L.C.nagaraj's picture

Arkavathi basin- Eucalyptus menace

Dear blrsri,

The eucalyptus menace is spreading across private lands. 1) the absentee land holders plant eucalyptus and remain out of the land,2) farmers are planting eucalyptus because of labour shortage, 3) Farmers are planting eucalyptus because there is eucalyptus in the neighbouring land, 4) farmers think that there is decline in rain fall and eucalyptus is the alternative.

Allelopathic impact of eucalyptus:

Eucalyptus is having allelopathic (chemical) impact on the soil and is inhibiting or suppressing the local vegetation and biodiversity.Eucalyptus absorbs constant level of water and its leaves are not decomposed in soil.This eucalyptus trees are used in Australia to absorb moisure from the swampy lands and to inhibit the breeding of mosquitoes. Local,nature friendly pongamea,neem are suppressed by eucalyptus.

Now the government of Karnataka is formulating a biofuel policy and more land area will be brought under jatropha monoculture.Jatropha is also a specie which supresses the local biodiversity. Pongamea is found to be a ecofriendly biofuel specie and the government need to make reflections on this.

We have a list of species that can be cultivated for biofuel production and these species are not harmfull to nature.

blrsri's picture

needs a govt. rule?

 I am still for cutting the eucalyptus trees down..if it needs a govt be it!

One cannot grow sandalwood or teak in their farms without the same way the govt can make it mandatory for eucalyptus trees and ban them totally in the catchment areas..with a one time activity of removal of these trees..

Yes, honge or Jatropha which need minimal maintenance and  are sustainable in the long run are better options!


Rithesh's picture

Suggest an alternative

Eucalyptus is grow in the Dobbaballapur and Chikkballapur regions because they can grow in almost desert like conditions, need minimum maintenance and is an additional source of income (leaves are used by pharma and textile industries, stems are used by the construction industry for structural support purposes). The eucalyptus trees can be harvested every 2-3 years.

Honge, Jatropha, Teak and Sandlewood have a very high timber value - but to get any significant returns farmers have to wait for atleast 10 years (may be 20 in case of Teak). I doubt if there is any need for permission to grow teak or sandlewood.

Farmers should be educated about the environmental effects of eucalyptus but unless farmers are given a better alternative - eucalyptus cultivation will not stop. Is silver oak an alternative? They grow very fast (2-3 years), have a good market value. But are they harmful like the eucalyptus?

Nagaraj - can you please share with us the list of eco-friendly trees apart from the ones you have already mentioned.
L.C.nagaraj's picture

Alternatives to Eucalyptus

Nature friendly tree crops:

1) Hebbeavu( azharica indica) or Persian lilac:  Fast growing, minimum moisture requirement in growth stage, good fodder for live stock, seeds can be used as biopesticides, good timber. Absorbs carbon dioxide from atmosphere; no adverse environmental impact.

2) Jack fruit: Yields fruits, minimum moisture requirement, absorbs carbon dioxide from atmosphere, good fodder for live stock.

3) Drum stick tree(moringa oleifera): Requires water only in growth stage of 6 months,starts yielding in 10 months, leaves contain iron and calcium, pods are nutritive. Can grow in marginal soils. Each tree can yield up to 500 pods in one year. Edible ben oil can be extracted from seeds. Seeds can be used in cationic process of water treatment. Leaves can be dried and sold. Roots are used in local health traditions. Good alternative to meet the nutrition requirement of Indias 45% malnourisged children. Plant to plant interspace can be utilised for millet and nitrogen fixing pulse cultivation. Good habitation for spiders, pollinators and predator fauna.

4) Beala ( wood apple) Fieronia Lomonia: Dry land tree crop, fruit contains phosphorous, good juice can be extracted from the fruits, Good habitation for birds,spiders and predators. Full grown tree can yield up to 2000 fruits.

5) Nellikayi mara( amla): Minimum moisture requirement during growth stage, edible, used in pickle production and local health traditions. Can grow in marginal soils and will start yielding in 2 years.

6) Seetha phala ( annona suomosa); Nutritive fruits, can grow with minimum moisture, will start yielding in 2 years. Each tree yields 200 to 500 fruits. Seeds can be used as biopesticides. will start yielding in 2 years.

7) Bilva: Can grow in marginal soils, traditionally the fruits are used as hair conditioners, good habitation for birds and predators. Can be grown as buffers along the water streams ,near temples and sacred groves.

8) Antuvala ( soap nut): Can grow in marginal soils, the nuts are used to clean the ornaments. Can replace all the polluting detergents. Can grow only with rain protection.

9) Bamboo: Can be planted across the water streams, India is running short of bamboo, used in handicrafts and cottage industries. Shoots are edible if processed properly, used in healing asthama. Bamboos absorb atmospheric carbon, contains silica which is antagonistic to heavy metals. Good habitations for pea hens,spiders,honey bees and birds. Fast growing and rain dependant crop.

10) Pongamea: Leguminous nitrogen fixing tree, Seeds contain good quality bio fuel, oil cakes can be used to fertilize the soil,  oil is mosquito repellant and antibiotic. Pongamea is decideous; sheds leaves in winter. The leaves are used in composting farm yard manure. Can be cultivated either as buffer crop or in companion cropping with bamboo and beala trees.

11) Neeravanji: The plant specie is almost extinct but can be regenerated with trees that are left in remote areas. This specie grows near the water streams. Good material to design yokes. The yokes made from this wood doesnt wound the necks of oxens. Tree is essential for agriculture.

12) Japan cherry: Requires water only during growth stage, fruits can heal diabetics.

13) Azharcichta indica( beavu): The tree is synonym with indian culture, neem is a key plant specie in the cultural land scape of Indian villages. Each village had a plot form with a neem tree in companion ship with pipal tree. Usually this plot form is used for conflict resolution and counseliing within the villages.

Neem seeds are essential for agriculture, neem oil is used as fungicide and bio pesticide, neem oil cakes can effectively neutralise the crop harming pathogens; mosquito repellants.

14) Muthuga ( fire of the forest):  Very attractive tree, when flowers it looks as if its the flame. Leaves can be utilised for making eco plates. the tree is a good habitation for many birds. Can be grown as buffers across the water streams.

15) Hoovarasi( Thespesia populnea): Tree with huge canopy, very attractive with yellow flowers throught the year. Leaves are good for composting and soil fertilization.Green leaves can be used as fodder for cattles, timber is superior to teak and is used in designung agriculture utensils. The fruits are used in local health traditions to heal skin diseases. Tree can be cultivated as buffers in agriculture lands. The branches are hard and can be used in construction industry.

16) Wid date :The tree is simillar to cocoanut, is under extinction because of over extraction of toddy. The thorny leaves are processed and utilised in weaving mats. The natural toddy contains number of enzymes and can be utilised either as wine or to extract probiotic solutions to enhance biological activity in marginal soils;ripened fruits are delicious. In fact the toddy extracted from these trees is safer than the illicit cheap liquor that is available in villages. If the same pattern of cheap liquor continues in villages people will loose their vision because of high concentration of spirit. Its better to bring policy level changes to produce natural toddy.

17)Glyrecia: is normally cultivated as a biofencing  farm lands, nitrogen fixing tree, good fodder, good for composting and vermicomposting, the flowers are good source of nectar. we can save on stone and barbed wires.

Dear Friends,
I am still working on many plant species, i am not for any single plant specie; we should go for diversity to cool the temperature and to meet the requirements for soil fertility and live stock fodder species with no adverse impact on the ecological systems and symbiotics.


zenrainman's picture

Arkavathy rejuvenation

Dear Nagaraj
You are doing wonderful work and lt me congratulate you on your journey. To me the Arkavathy can be revived when there is an insitution set up to manage the entire basin. It should then take the help of civil society and communities to ensure a good understanding of the water balance of the river and plan and implement it sustainably. Let us talk to the authorities concerned to set up such an institution.
warm regards
Rithesh's picture

Thanks for the info

Thanks a lot for the list. I will make sure that i carry the list with me next time i visit my native. Long ago river Pinakini used to flow through my native - my dad tells me stories of this river - now the whole area is no better than a desert.
Great job sir.

@Vishwanath Sir
Nice to see you on Praja. Could you please put up more information on the role of the institution that you are proposing? Will it have powers to regulate ground water usage? Will it just be for the Arkavathi river basin or cover other river basins in the region also?
Please keep us posted, I am sure a lot of us would want to actively contribute to your efforts.
Transmogrifier's picture

Scientific names added for tree list

Rithesh, Nagaraj and others,

Scientific names added for those interested:

1) Hebbeavu (Melia dubia)

2) Jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)

3) Drum stick tree (Moringa olifera)

4) Beala/Wood apple (Limonia acidissima)

5) Nellikayi mara/Amla (Emblica officinalis)

6) Seetha phala (Annona squamosa)

7) Bilva (Aegle marmelos)

8) Antuvala/Soap nut (Sapindus trifoliatus or Sapindus emarginatus)

9) Bamboo

10) Pongamea (Pongamia  pinnata)

11) Neeravanji (Salix tetrasperma)

12) Japan cherry

13) Beavu (Azadirachta indica)

14) Muthuga/Flame of the forest (Butea monosperma)

15) Hoovarasi (Thespesia populnea)

16) Wild date

17) Gyrecia

Also, consider browsing FRLHT's database on native species (as opposed to exotic species)  and ATREE's agroforestry program in Kanakpura for more details.



zenrainman's picture

River level institution for the Arkavathy

 I would think that the institution could model itself on the Aravari sansad, a people's institution set up by Rajendra Singh of Tarun Bharat Sangh in Rajasthan.This could be one model.
From the government side it could be a planning , data collation and institutional coordination institution which would bring together the various other institutions acting in the Arakavathi basin for eg the Watershed department, the tank rehab department JSYS , the Minor irrigation depatment  the Agri dept.,the forest dept., the Mines and geology dept. and industries dept to find out exactly what are their plans in the basin and whatt is the impact of each one of their  activities on river water flows and groundwater. 
Unless such an institution comes into play the dream of 33% will remain a dream. Unfortunately he single biggest reason for the lack of river flows is not the disappearnace of forests but the depletion of groundwater all across the basin and the conversion of land to intensive double cropped agriculture. Agriculture land does not allow surface runoff and depletion of groundwater prevents base flows from occuring .These in turn kill river flows. How to reverse this process will require long term,strategi and sustained planning and investment and I fear a Civil Society initiative may not be enough ( though very necessary to start the process itself).
One challenge for us interested and for Praja itself is how to draw more people to this discussion and debate and how to convert that energy into tangible action?

One can flesh out the plans as and when the institution is set up to coordinate the impact of water demand and supply in the Arkavathi.
L.C.nagaraj's picture

Arkavathi;bygone splendor

I will show you fear in a hand full of dust
                  T.S.Eliot  in waste land

Dear Vishwanathji,
Thenk you for your compliments
Dear Rithesh,
Thanks for adding the scientific names for the tree species that i mentioned. I am conemplating on tree crops with diversity for many prime reasons.
1) To decrease the pressure on the existing aquifers,2) to meet the organic carbon requirement of soils.3) To sink atmospheric carbon 4) to meet the renewable energy requirement and 5) to decrease the hydrological impact on the soils and to increase the osmotic pressure in soils so that rain water is percolated in to the rhizosphere of trees.

AS all of you are aware there is 45% malnutrition among Indian children and we are expected to produce quality vegetables to meet the energy requirement of future Indian generation. The pulse consumption in India is on the drastic decline in proportionate with the nitrogen deficiency in soil. This tells us the story  of our impoverished farmers and impoverished soils.The farmers have forgotten to cultivate pigeon pea(red gram) and are busy only growing tomato,potato,cabbage and cauliflower. Every summer its the very same story to pump more and more water,to grow tomato and to dump it in the roads. This is a virtual loss to aquifers,to livelihoods and to the ecosystems. We are calculating only liveli hood loss but we are not looking at the environmental cost.
Pigeon pea can grow in rainfed conditions, it can absorb atmospheric amonium and convert it in to nitrogen which is required to in soils. We have forgotten that pulse crops are essential to meet the nutrient requirement of both soils,animals and humans. Farmere cultivate the same crop in the same land repeatedly and hence pathogen infestation is more. Then farmers turn towards the pesticide suppliers to get rid of the pathogens. There are SHYLAKS sitting in the shops who prescribe solvation for the farmers.
Soils in Devanahalli,Doddaballapur and Chikkaballapur are completely depleted and they abound with heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. As one of the Italian chemist had said the organo chlorine based pesticides are radio mimetic in nature; they imitate radiation. Our agriculture fields have become silent HIROSHIMAS. Farmers have developed stereotypic notions on the use of pesticides; spiders have been targetted by the farmers with the thinking that they harm the crops.In fact spiders are carnivorous and they feed on the pests which harm the crops.
Many crop friendly predators,birds,scavenging birds are on the verge of extinction; throught Arkavathi basin i came across the bat habitation only near two lakes.1) Near Kanchganala(Doddaballapur- Nandi hills road), 2) Banavadi (magadi thaluk). In fact each bat feed on nearly 250 grams of insects in its nocturnal journey.

So now its time our farmers go in for tree crops,reduce pressure on aquifers and find time to relax after a futile journey called " green revolution".

To test the hypothesis we from SVARAJ conducted a small experiment on tree crops in Alur of Kundana hobli. The land belongs to Mr.C.Nanjappa who was an industrious farmer with intense potato and grapes cultivation. The grapes failed after few years,the land was left fallow for 6 years. SVARAJ was looking for a piece of land to experiment tree crops for livelihood and to decrese the pressure on aquifers. Mr.Nanjappa agreed to our proposition but water availability was just 6000 litres per day. The bore well was almost gasping for water,after the land treatment the water quality started changing, there was regular water delivery from the bore well.
So now there are 450 drum stick trees yielding. In 2006 with the limiting factor of water we planted only 120 drum stick trees along with papaya to suppress to parthenium. In 12 months drum stick trees yielded an average of 80 pods per tree of 1 metre length, in 2008 it got increased to 300 pods per tree. Now the trees have flowered again and the farmer Mr.C.Nanjappa is expecting nearly 400 pods per tree.
Drum stick plants require water only in the growth stage, the interspace can be utilised for natural rain dependant pulse crops. In fact tomatos grow very well with drum stick trees. We have conserved and propogated a land race variety of tomato called 'cherry tomato'. Many neighbouring chemical farmers ridiculed our beloved cherry tomato. But thats going to be our only future tomato which can grow in rain fed conditions.
Along with tree crops,alley farming method and companion cropping method we can reclaim the river for all of us.


L.C.nagaraj's picture

How vibrant Arkavathi was !

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Rithesh's picture

Nagarajavare - thanks

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zenrainman's picture

Flash floods in Arkavathi

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