For some Malnad magic

For some Malnad magic


For some Malnad magic

Korse is a tiny hamlet in Uttara Kannada district, while Yadakuria is an island-village in Chamarajanagar district. Even as Korse has seen positive action by way of a solar energy project, Yadakuria is waiting for a bridge that will make life better for its residents.

This is a tale of two villages, miles apart from each other. While one is a remote village in Uttara Kannada district, the other is in Chamaraja­­nagar district. Yada­kuria is an islet surrounded by the waters of the Cauvery and the Kabini.

Life is immensely difficult for its residents. A bridge will solve much of their problems, but that doesn’t seem to appear on the horizon anytime soon. Meanwhile, at Korse, another village that you will find difficult to spot on the map, there has been positive change. Solar energy has changed the life of villagers here.

Going the solar way

Korse is a beautiful Malnad village nestled in the Bedti river valley. The village is largely populated with tribals such as the Marathis. The main occupations of these tribals are paddy cultivation, dairy farming and collection of non-timber forest produce. The tribe depends on firewood for cooking, bathing and processing of agricultural produce. Forest timber is thus an important source of fuel for them. The community uses kerosene lamps to light up their homes at night.

This was the story of the village till not so long ago. Today, the story has changed, though. The tribals who were known to frequent the forest for collection of timber now spend fewer hours to gather firewood. They utilise the free hours to earn their livelihood by other means. The lack of electricity is not much of a bother either.

It is solar energy that has brought about this change. The Marathi tribals have been encouraged to use alternate energy and reduce dependence on the forest for their firewood needs. The burden on the nearby forest has reduced by 50 per cent.

A pilot project taken up by the Western Ghats Task Force in association with the Department of Forests and the Medhini Education and Rural Development Organisation, to highlight the concept of green energy, has met with huge success in Korse, which is part of Bisalakoppa Gram Panchayat.

The project, started five months ago, is the first of its kind in the whole region, because it is an integrated project implemented with active participation of tribals. This project has coved all 32 Marathi tribal families in the hamlet. Under the project, domestic solar light, firewood-efficient chulha (stove) and solar light to school children for reading have been provided to all 32 families. Three community solar street lights have also been installed.

According to a survey, worldwide firewood consumption for energy amounts to nearly 12X1012 kilowatt hours. That amounts to almost 50 per cent of total wood used in the world per year. Over 95 per cent of firewood is used in developing countries. Even today, nearly 90 per cent of the country’s rural families depend on firewood for their various needs including cooking, bathing and processing of agriculture produce.

Indiscriminate firewood harvest contributes to deforestation, soil erosion and other factors related to eco-climatic disasters. Firewood shortage is often called the ‘second energy crisis’. It primarily affects the poor in rural areas.

According to a survey conducted by Prof Keshav Korse of Medhini, before the implementation of the project, each tribal family used 60 kg wood per day out of which 20 kg was used for cooking and 40 kg for bathing.

By introducing fuel-efficient stoves, he says, it is possible to reduce usage to nearly 30 kg of firewood out of which 10 kg is used for cooking and 20 kg for bathing. It is possible to save nearly 116.8 tonnes of firewood every year. According to Keshav Korse, the first phase of the project has been implemented; in the second phase, the tribals themselves will be taught to install biogas units and oven/stove for heating water, which can save many tonnes of firewood.

Western Ghats Task Force Chairman Anant Hegde Ashisar points out that a separate eco-friendly fuel project should be implemented in the Malnad region. Using alternative fuel sources could reduce the burden on forests. Today, firewood is still a major source of domestic energy in rural areas. The task force has planned to provide solar systems for 10,000 families with financial assistance from the government.

Alternative energy projects can successfully be implemented with the involvement of village forest committees and the active participation of local people, especially tribals, he explains.

Sandhya Hegde AlmaneA bridge is all they need
Yadakuria is a small village in Chamarajanagar’s Kollegal taluk. The village is under the Sattegala gram panchayat limits. The village, just two kw away from Sattegala, has turned into an island, surrounded as it is by the water of the Cauvery and the Kabini. The island has over 100 houses, with a population of nearly 900 people.

In terms of amenities too, the village is an island; the village has not seen a bus, car, or any other mode of transport.

Villagers have to cross the river by way of a small makeshift coracle (theppa). There is no bridge that connects the village to other parts. Though some residents here own bikes, they park them on the banks of the river. The village has only one government school, from Standard I to V. For further studies, students have to travel to Sathanur or Kollegal by the coracle. Sometimes, because of the absence of a boatman, school students have to double up as boatmen. Deterred by this, many parents have stopped their children’s education, especially of girls, midway. Even finding a marriageable partner for youngsters here is a problem because no one is willing to marry those living on this island-village, owing to the problems involved.

No medical facilities

The village doesn’t even have medical care. Even during medical emergencies, the theppa is the only mode of transport. “We literally lead our lives on the theppa. We have to rely on it for everything. There are times when we experience floods too. In 1991, when there was a flood situation, food was supplied to us by way of helicopters. There were promises of a bridge, which never materialised,” explains resident Umesh.

“In 2005, because of heavy rain, a part of the village was inundated. The then district incharge minister, H S Mahadev Prasad, and Kollegal taluk’s legislator Balaraju had commissioned a boat. Owing to irregular supply of diesel, even that boat is not of much use,” he explains.

Though the village has a verdant green cover and is surrounded by a vast blue expanse, the residents are in no position to enjoy nature’s beauty. The rigours of daily life on this island are just too many, for them to think of anything else. When it rains, their problems worsen. Meanwhile, they wait for that elusive bridge.

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