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How Kodikal Lost A Stream & Gained A Drain

March 7, 2018

Heading south to Mangalore, the last village you see before entering the city is Kodikal. It may even be wrong to call it a village now; apartment blocks, a brand new engineering college, and constant construction activity have made it more urban than rural. You can almost watch it transform into one of the much-wanted suburbs of the main city, like the way it happened in Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore.

Sadly, it is copying even the worse trends too.

The Stream

The Gurupura river flows down to Mangalore from the north, meeting the Netravati just before they empty out into the Arabian Sea. In its final stretch, as the Gurupura enters Mangalore, it meets a roughly 3 km long unnamed stream, in the vicinity of Kodikal. There is nothing special about the steam; it is one of the many streams draining out into the Gurupura river over its more than 40 km long stretch (after the confluence near).

It is however, the stream that we are going to talk about.

This stream that flows along the northern end of Kodikal, is itself formed by two sources, one from the north and the other from the east, as you can see below.

kodikal-gurupura-mangalore-river-stream-water

Kodikal on Map

So what’s the problem?

It is disappearing.

The Shrinking

The EOS Landviewer (https://eos.com/landviewer/) is an online resource; just make an account on it, and you can access satellite images from as far back as 1984. We looked for Kodikal on the map, and pulled up an image from 1990. Then we applied the band combination of ‘Index Stack’; band combinations are used for highlighting specific features or phenomena of the landscape. Think of it like a image filter for a map.

Why this specific filter/band combination then? This is the Index Stack Description (from the website)

‘vegetation displays here as green, water as purple, snow/ice as magneta, and soil, rocks, and barren land as blue. Clouds also appear as a mixture of purple & magneta, so in this case the indices alone are not sufficient for differentiating clouds from water and snow/ice.’

This is on 17 December 1990:

kodikal-gurupura-mangalore-river-stream-water

Kodikal (17 December 1990)

The satellite used here is Landsat 5 (belongs to the US; the initials are LT5).

This is on 5 January 1992; pink is water, so notice the stream, and also keep an eye on the one to the north.

kodikal-gurupura-mangalore-river-stream-water-kavoor-kottara-karnataka

Kodikal (5 January 1992)

Now look at this from 11 January 2015.

kodikal-gurupura-mangalore-river-stream-water-kavoor-kottara

Kodikal (11 January 2015)

The northern end of the stream is gone, as is the tributary in the north. Keep in mind: this is the same zoom level (300 m), the same weather conditions (December, January). The satellite however is different. So let’s reconfirm.

This is 22 January 2018, from a different satellite.

kodikal-gurupura-mangalore-river-stream-water-kavoor-kottara

Kodikal (22 January 2018)

The higher level of detail shows that the stream is highly blocked up in the north (as any local can guarantee, garbage is also thrown in the stream). But the above still stands; the tributary has disappeared, and the stream has shrunk.

But why did this happen?

The Present

Google Earth combined a number of satellite images, the world over, to prepare Google Timelapse. This is the link. Go here, search Kodikal and zoom to the max.

As you can see, this is a record of satellite images from 1984 to 2016, just like the ones we use in our GPS. Now, watch it on slow speed, and take a look at the north end of the stream.

From 1999 to 2002, the upper part of the stream is clearly visible. In 2000, the first clearing of land, as the land becomes brown, happens on the north bank. On the southern bank, the clearing begins in 2007, expands in 2008, and becomes a bit bigger in 2015. Till 2010, part of the stream is still visible; it disappears in 2011. You can see the shrinking at the turn in 2013.

What happened here? The AJ College happened here, among other things.

The Problem

As everyone in Kodikal knows, as early as 15 years ago, the place where the college stood was filled with water. Farming was the main occupation here, so the place was either that or marshland.

My mother, who grew up here, says that in monsoon the entire area would flood up, as far away as 300m away from the stream, where the Nagabrahma Chawadi temple stands.

It was only in the last 15 years, that the entire area was filled up. In fact, when the college construction began, trucks and trucks filled with sand had to choke up the naturally wet land. Some people joked that they were building a beach.

It is about time we stop laughing now. This is present day Kodikal.

kodikal-gurupura-mangalore-river-stream-water-kavoor-kottara

Present Day Kodikal (Google Maps)

If an area floods when it is just open fields, what happens when you put brick and sand and concrete over the fields? Where does the water go? Many houses here still depend on the ground water through wells for drinking water; how is the water supposed to seep down into the soil now? With the college, and the hostels, and still some open land waiting for buyers, where does all their water demand come from?

The Future

Mangalore is on its way to becoming a ‘smart city’ courtesy the Central Government’s pan-India plan. But what is the meaning of it becoming a smart city? More Ideal parlors, better roads, higher land prices? Or does it involve something more?

Delhi is reeling under some of the worst air pollution in the world; the entire developing belt of North India is at threat from its own air. Bangalore has almost finished off its own water. Mumbai keeps drowning annually. Oh, and NASA predicted that the top two cities at risk from rising sea levels include Mumbai & Mangalore, with both the cities seeing levels rise by as much as 15 cms from the present height by the next 100 years. If Mangalore cannot learn from these cities/prepare for these eventualities, then what is the point of it being a city?

If it cannot save its own stream, its own water, how will it protect its people?


About the author: Hitesh Shetty
Dreams of writing a bestseller and changing the world. When awake, tries to figure out how to do both.

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