The geography of Western Ghats is altered for good with the recent natural disaster/landslides that flattened hills and attracted worldwide attention. As man stood helpless, disaster struck between 12th and 19th August 2018 when unprecedented amounts of rainfall caused irreparable damage to the land mass and misery to the people of Kodagu, scarring them for life. More than the loss of property, it was the pain of the people who lost their near and dear ones, in some cases people disappeared without a trace. Is Mother Nature angry or man himself is the cause of the catastrophe?
Only July 22, it was reported that cracks had developed for a distance of two kilometer at Monnangeri in Galibeedu grama panchayati of Madikeri at 5,000 feet above sea level. It is said that a negligible crack had arisen at the spot some days back and it suddenly widened on Sunday 19th, creating wide spread panic among the villagers. Tahsildar of the taluk, rural police station house officer, geologists and other officials visited the spot to assess the development, who later said that the problem would subside one the rainfall recedes! The credit for the crack was given to the excessive percolation of water into the earth triggered by copious rainfall and that there is no chance of the earth suffering depression in the area. Perhaps the confident group of officials should have stayed with the villagers to record the developments.
The apprehensive villagers near the crack were accommodated in a school as a precautionary measure. It is noteworthy that in the yore Kodagu was known as the Chirapunji of South, my parents would say that they never saw sun light for days together. In early 60s, my grandfather’s coffee plantation was completely ruined due to heavy rains at Karthakad (Black forest). However, no such cracks were reported then in, at least not in living memory.
Why North Kodagu damage is higher than the South Kodagu.. Why are the hills collapsing? Were the signs too small to be noticed by the authorities? Or human understanding is too little? Is democracy only about who wins & retains power? There is one too many questions without answers… some say it is due to the earth quake in the neighbouring Kerala, if that is the case then why there were no such vast destruction of land or hills?
Kodagu, my beloved home land, where I spent all my childhood, pretending that I was a bird in heaven flying in the misty magical places, searching for wild fruits & berries, every bit of it so beautiful, so plentiful & always naturally air-conditioned. Nostalgic memories of which always brings a smile & warmth to my heart, today part of it lies in ruins shadowed by uncertainties. The incessant rains brought by the so called Somali-Jet-Streams randomly recurves (changing its course) resulting in unperceivable destruction of this beautiful piece of land which was known as the heaven on earth, Kashmir of South, Scotland of India. Though geographically limited in area, with captivating rugged mountainous landscape with lush vegetation, picturesque deep valleys and, shining waterfalls earning the nick name heaven on earth. For me it is just my beloved Kodagu, home of my mother Kaveri, my heart & mind refuses to believe or accept the damages.
Kodagu, birth place of River Kaveri is home to unique warrior race Kodavas with distinct way of life who consider themselves as the children of River Kaveri and treat her as Mother Superior. They even kept aside land known as sacred Devara Kadu in the name of God, which belong to the village and maintained natural flora and fauna.
Year after year, as an amazing display of Mother Nature’s magic, the life giving South-West monsoon travels 3,000 kilometers from its birth, off the Madagascar coast to Somalia from where it gets deflected to India to its retreat to Tibet in September & its final dissipation in Madagascar again. The wind that makes the journey aided by other elements of the nature, transcending continents, cultures & different climate is known as the Somali-Jet-Streams. Sadly the jet-stream gathered it momentum from the warm sea and decided to empty the load on Kodagu and Kerala. Raising global temperature, melting of ices has changed the weather patterns around the world due to man’s action-inaction-over action.
Rain is nothing new to Kodagu & though intensity had diminished in recent years due to various factors,. Even when I was growing up, rains were heavy & season was longer & we even got more than 3-weeks rainy season holidays. Though there used to be floods & landslides, there never was case of hills being damaged or vanishing from the map. Unprecedented sight of landslides, land splitting apart, mushrooming waterfalls, cracking & collapsing roads, I never dreamt that one day I will be witnessing such vast destruction. So why is it happening?
Was the prolonged rainy season intensified by Somali-Jet, the only cause of this destruction some of which are as bad as ground-zero? Would Mother Nature hurt her children without reason? Was there any warning? How much man has contributed? Sadly Man has been provoking & abusing the Mother Nature in the name of progress, tourism & votes…. Though like every good mother, Mother Nature is tolerant & tried to warn, water God Varuna, said to be responsible for natural & moral orders of the cosmos seems to have determined to tighten the noose of chastisement, on man. Or is the global warming sole responsible around the world?
Living in Kuwait I have experienced tremors five times in my life. It was actually the effects from the high density earth quake in nearby Iran. Interestingly my husband never felt it in his life –no I am not a torturous wife. At one time I was in the office and after I felt the shaking, I went around asking most of my colleagues in the 2nd floor from 3 different departments. To my surprise only handful had felt it. Another time it was in the afternoon and I was skyping with my daughter. I was sitting with my left foot on the floor and the other one on the left thigh. Suddenly the right leg was pushed down with force and I was shocked, wondering what was happening…it is then that I saw the house plants shaking violently. My husband was not home. I called my friend Dr. Asha who was at home, she came near and I asked her did you feel the earth quake? She laughed and said are you dreaming? I showed the shaking plants behind as she stood dumb stuck… the plants were still shaking much after the incident. I have no idea whether it was because the pots were near the balcony or if the plants are very sensitive or perhaps because the earth is the base for its very being. In any case plants and animals experience more than we do. Though the news of the tremor appeared in the newspaper, most of my friends and colleagues never felt it.
Monday 9th July 2018, I was in my friend’s garden at Guddehosur (Kushalnagar) searching for mushrooms, when I heard a loud noise at 12:45 pm but did not really feel the tremor. My friend confirmed it & also said there was tremor. Suntikoppa, Somwarpet, Shanthalli, parts of Madikeri of Kodagu, Hassan, Chickmagaluru &, Sulya Taluk of Dakshnia Kannada felt & the rattling furniture & utensils caused panic among the residents forcing them out of their homes. It was also felt in Kerala. Later in the social media someone said it was 4.5 & someone else said 3.4.
Sunday 19th August 2018, unconfirmed reports reported two tremors felt between 7:45 & 7:51 am, at Napoklu, Ballamavati, Cheriyaparumbu, Pulikotu & other surrounding areas. Scared resident ran out of their homes. The other reports below were collected from the local news paper reporting as well as hear say. As there is no official confirmation, it’s difficult to stress on it. Many unofficial reporting of tremors and noise within that week were floating around.
Tuesday September 12, 2017, Star of Mysore reports: The residents of Napoklu and surrounding were in for an early morning shock as they felt two mild tremors between 7.45 am & 7.51 am. Tremors were felt at Napoklu, Ballamavati, Cheriyaparumbu, Pulikotu & other surrounding areas. Soon as the tremors were felt, the residents, fearing for their lives, came out of their houses. It may be recalled that mild tremors measuring 3.9 magnitudes on Richter scale were felt in some parts of Sullia and Puttur taluks in DK and also in parts of Kodagu on June 4 early this year.
Sunday October 14, 2015 a 3.9 magnitude earthquake shook Sullia at 2:21 pm causing panic & the tremors were felt in neighbouring Chikmagalur (Mudigere, Aldur, & Avathi), Hassan (Sakleshpur & Belur taluks) & Kodagu (Madikeri) districts. However there was no report of injuries or damage.
Wednesday April 27th 2011, Mild tremors measuring 1.6 to 1.9 on the Richter scale, shook homes for about ten seconds in Madikeri city at 10.53 a.m., triggering panic among citizens as they rushed out of their houses, some claiming falling of utensils, window panes shaking violently, feeling the vibration along the walls, loud explosive noise akin to a boulder rolling down or a booming sound passed under the earth, etc. The editor of local Kannada daily Shakthi said that following the tremor, newspaper bundles rolled out of the vehicle parked outside the newspaper office. However, the intensity was mild & no damage of life or property.. Social media claim of Houses developing cracks were authentic or not is not clear.
June 2005, there was a mild earthquake in the Somwarpet region in which several houses were damaged.
These were previous cases of tremor & sounds from earth which were was not given much importance. In all the cases not everyone felt the tremors or heard the noise. Perhaps the frequency was different or the usual din & roar of the mundane life never made them feel. The news of earth quake during the 15 days period of rain havoc was considered as rumours.
Interestingly State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre never recorded any such activities in the above mentioned quakes, perhaps because the intensity was less than two, what is known as micro-tremor. Micro-tremor is said to be a low amplitude ambient vibration of the ground caused by man-made or atmospheric disturbances. It is also said that such tremors are common in Kodagu & Chikmagalur. Though tremors were mild, coupled with sound it was strong enough to create panic among the residents. Why the series of occurrences & complaints were neglected? Did the district authorities note the complaints? Were the signs ignored? Or over confident government combined with step-motherly treatment to the district did not pause & think about the consequences? It will remain a million dollar question.
In an earth quake, the location of the epicenter (the point on the earth’s surface vertically above the focus of an earthquake) will have more influence and effect than the magnitude itself. Shallower the epicent higher the damage. I guess since the records will never be made public, no one will ever know.
Sadly already State and central governments having differences, parties within the state having differences, like the say goes when husband and wife fights, the child suffers. At the cost of disaster at Kodagu, every Tom, Dick & Harry raising funds & materials in the name of disaster, & in the bargain even diverting it elsewhere including their own pockets, shadowing the genuine work done by Good Samaritan. Interesting I saw someone kept a box to collect fund for Kodagu on the mori at Kukkarahalli lake for 2 days!
Sensible scientist Madhav Gadgil Committee report or the little milder space scientist Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats did not see the day light as the Karnataka & Kerala state governments had their own vested interests. And the proposed railway project is hanging in the midair like Trishanku. Man has short term memory & I wonder if the ISRO report will make any difference?