Is the Jog losing its charm?

RAJA, ROCKET, RANI, ROARER... The breathtaking Jog Falls, has now become a seasonal tourist spot. Below right: The pathways constructed at Jog, and (left) the river Sharavati near Jog. Photos: Shimoga Yogaraj

Jog, where the Sharavati, hailed as the river of ‘power’ and ‘light’ takes a breathtaking plunge from a height of 829 feet is undergoing transformation. The world famous waterfall is turning into a concrete jungle while Rani, the most scintillating among the four curves, is losing its charm. The locals and ecologists are not comfortable with the initiatives being taken up to upgrade tourist infrastructure at the place.

Lacking in basic amenities
While claims are made about providing tourists with facilities that match up to international standards at Jog, the place lacks basic amenities like clean drinking water and food. Even as the initiatives to upgrade the tourist infrastructure at Jog need to be welcomed, there are also apprehensions that only those from affluent classes will be benefited from the same. Civic works undertaken at the place have also been opposed because of apprehensions that the enchanting spot will be converted into a concrete jungle.

Water level in the Linganamakki reservoir had depleted to 1,740 feet by the first week of July. Because of a scanty flow from the reservoir located upstream, Jog Falls was looking like a pale shadow of what it is normally is during the monsoon. However, owing to heavy rain which lashed the region from the second week of July, water level at Linganamakki increased. Tourists flocked the spot during weekends to enjoy the resplendent beauty of Jog Falls. The existing infrastructure was unable to sustain additional tourist influx. Vehicles parked along the road haphazardly resulted in traffic blockades. It was dirt and squalor that greeted tourists as disposable plates, cups and gutkha sachets were seen scattered all around the place.

Even the Department of Tourism acknowledges that tourist inflow to the Jog has increased after the release of Kannada blockbuster Mungaru Male which has many breathtaking scenes of the falls. Many have slipped from the rocks and lost lives in their bid to reach the spot where the scintillating shots in the movie were taken. Apart from installing a few boards advising caution, the administration has done precious little to prevent the mishaps. It is necessary to deploy security personnel and tourist guides to prevent accidents.

Seasonal falls?
The construction of a reservoir across the river Sharavati near Linganamakki turned Jog into a seasonal falls and the place loses its charm after monsoon, because of limited water discharge. Efforts to maintain constant tourist flow all through the year were made by releasing water from the reservoir during weekends.
However depletion of water level in Linganamakki reservoir makes Karnataka Power Corporation Limited, which is in charge of the reservoir, helpless.
As the water flow is scanty during summer, the rocks have developed cracks. Boulders are sliding down from the falls while the rare variety of pigeons which nest among these rocks are migrating. The toll is high near Rani Falls and the twist near its waist which gives elegance to the falls is changing shape.

Food court, hotels...
It is disheartening to note that even quality food is not ensured for tourists who visit the place. The concept of developing a food court at the place has remained on paper. The cottages in Sharavati Nisargadhama managed by Department of Forests can be tried. A heritage hotel is coming up in the place on public-private partnership basis. Construction work is likely to commence from the month of November.

The work of constructing concrete steps to reach the bottom of the falls, landscaping, amphitheatre, pathway for tourists and parking slot is underway. Green activists ridicule these initiatives and feel it’s a flawed understanding of the concept of development. Sustainable and eco-friendly models of development need to be experimented at Jog. Instead of multi-storied star hotels, the concept of home stays can be popularised here which will facilitate citizens’ participation in tourism development activities.

Totti mane, the house with a tailed roof, whitewashed walls and hase chittara, the painting in red mud on the same; the traditional architecture of Malnad which is also eco friendly, need to be experimented with at Jog. The star hotel constructed upstream the Rani curve of Jog is a distortion of nature’s art.

The Jog should be developed into an all-season tourist spot, but not at the cost of nature. Only nature-friendly and sustainable development experiments can make the spot more endearing.

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