Water-starved Dharmasthala asks devotees to defer visit

The dry Nethravathi. Photo by arrangement

In a development that points to the severity of drought in the state, the pilgrim centre of Dharmasthala, for the first time in its history, on Friday appealed to devotees and tourists to defer their visit to the holy town till after the monsoon, citing severe water scarcity.

In an official statement, D Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of the temple in Dakshina Kannada, appealed to devotees to cooperate with the temple management.

The management of the temple, which is located on the banks of River Nethravathi — Dakshina Kannada's lifeline — has expressed concern over the fast depleting water level in the river. In his statement, Heggade said, "Like in the rest of the country, people in Dakshina Kannada too have been struggling to get water. The district administration has rationed water supply and people are supplied water only twice or thrice in a week. The situation is no better even in the temple town of Dharmasthala as the water level in River Nethravathi is depleting alarmingly. The town requires a huge quantity of water to cater to devotees’ requirements. Hence, we appeal to devotees and tourists to defer their visit to the temple town and cooperate with us.”

A Shaivite and Jain pilgrimage centre is flocked by lakhs of devotees every year. On an average, about 30,000 to 50,000 devotees visit the temple every day and are fed free food at the temple’s dining hall twice a day. Almost all districts of Karnataka facilitate devotees’ visit to the town by operating direct buses and the numbers swell during summer holidays.

The coastal district, which has never experienced drought in the past, has been witnessing nature’s fury this year as early as March. Amid an outcry over the degradation of Nethravathi and its catchment areas due to development and potable water projects, there is panic in the district after the Nethravathi completely dried up of a few weeks ago, forcing the administration to announce rationing of water. 

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