Meera Bhardwaj

The hilly forested regions of Belagavi district, Karnataka, India which includes Kankumbi, Jamboti and Bhimgad receives torrential rains every year but this time, it has been unprecedented as it poured continuously for 10 days. Kankumbi hill range in fact, rivals Agumbe in Shivamogga district for the tag of being the Cherrapunji of the South.

The average rainfall is around 4000 mm and during the monsoon months, they are cut off from rest of the world. Amagaon has set the record of having received the highest rainfall of 10,068 mm in 2010.

Warked village to Londa – the road and bridge damaged

For 22-25 villages situated across verdant and pristine hill ranges in this district, it will take more than a year to recover from the after effects of rains that caused immense damage to roads, bridges and buildings.

According to local residents and forest officials, the villages inside dense forests have been cut off totally. It rained so heavily that even Khanapur town was flooded, one resident said. In some villages, the situation was so bad that small and big ‘Karanjis’ were formed at many places in Jamboti.

Near Machalli village and Sathnahali village road bridge that is completely damaged

Londa Range Forest Officer, S S Ningani remarks that Kankumbi receives more rainfall than other places. He adds, “However, in the last 3-5 years, it has come down a bit due to developmental activities. But this year, it is unprecedented as it poured and poured for a week.”

The villages of Amagaon, Chikale, Parwad and other interior areas are totally cut off having no connectivity or power supply as roads and bridges have been washed away causing huge damages to infrastructure.

A resident says that many villages in the hilly forest ranges – Saada, Maan, Kongala, Chiguli, Talewadi, Parvad, Chikale, Gause and others are the worst hit while Chapoli, Pastoli, Gawali, Mendil etc. too are facing the same situation. The roads are cut off here too, there are no buses traversing and no mobile networks working. Foot bridges, small and big bridges are all damaged and at Warkad, the road has been badly damaged.

Jayram Desai, Zilla Panchayat member, Jamboti says that for four months life is very difficult in Kankumbi especially Amagaon which receives the highest rainfall. He adds, “Although their houses are cemented but the external walls are protected with karve stick barriers. However, there is no real protection from such heavy rains, winds and cold. This time, the national highway is damaged while the villages in Bhimgad are very badly hit. 11 villages are totally cut off while the foot bridge at Amagaon is down.”

People are happy here despite lack of basic facilities

Ningani adds, “The reality is they live in remote and forested areas which receive the highest rainfall. They do not want to relocate and are happy to live in these areas despite lack of basic facilities. For children to go to school, they have to walk 15-20 kilometers daily and traversing forests and avoiding wildlife.”

In the last seven decades, there has been no improvement in the situation of these people as they live inside forests. They live in remote and isolated forest villages with no roads, schools and medical facilities. The ZP member mentions that earlier the people were dependent on wood and used to collect from the forests. But 90 per cent of them have stopped using any forest produce as the government has provided them LPG.

Area between Devanga-Talewadi villages

For the first time, specific areas where people live in Jamboti have seen sliding of lands and their houses damaged. This has scared the residents, says Desai. “Most buildings be it houses, schools or a medical centre, they are facing the problem of leakages and need urgent repairs.”

It is a catch-22 situation for people living in Jamboti, Kankumbi and Bhimgad ESZ, as they often face wildlife attacks with one or two cases of death reported every year. They have lived in dense rain forests along with elephants, bison, tiger, black panthers and other wildlife for a long time now and are not prepared for relocation outside forested regions. But it’s high time, the state government came out with special packages for wildlife attacks as the present compensation being paid is meager, opines Desai. There is a need for a model relocation project for these people to know the advantages, counters the RFO.

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