Diversion of water from streams for irrigation and domestic purposes
Use of areca stems for transporting water
Use of leaf litter as manure
Collection of crabs, apple snails (Pila) and small fishes from agricultural lands
Bees and red ants as pollinators
Use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides
Humans and livestock affected by ticks and leeches
Crops damaged by nuisance species such as rats
Pest control by ratsnake and lizard
Leaf litter collection
Working in agricultural fields
Use of water from streams for domestic purposes
Sloth bear damaging honey combs
Flowering of rubber plantations increasing availability of honey
Fishing in streams
Use of water from streams for domestic purposes
Use of dynamites and fish poisons
Making of mats, baskets and rain covers
Sale of these products locally as well as in outside markets
Collection of climbers from evergreen forest
Collection of wood for making implements
Use of water from streams for domestic purposes
Small scale industrialists
Collection and local purchase of areca leaves
Cultivation and purchase of jackfruit
Heating and cooling through biogas-powered systems
Use of stream water for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes
5.7 Mapping the Landscape
5.7.1 The study locality may be viewed as a mosaic of a number of irregular shaped (eg. fields, orchards, grasslands, forests, lakes) or linear elements (eg. streams, roads) of a number of different types. These different types of elements, variously termed ecotope types or landscape element (LSE) types may be discriminated at different spatial scales on many different bases. In the discipline of landscape ecology that has developed especially since satellite imagery became widely available, the individual elements are discriminated on the scale of a few hundred m2 to few hectares. The basis of discrimination on land is the structure, physiognomy and phenology of the dominant life form, e.g. trees in forest or herbs in grassland. The aquatic elements may be classified on the basis of depth, flow regime and seasonality. Figure 4 is such a landscape map of the Mala study cluster.
5.7.2 Another relevant basis for the mapping of the landscape is the set of ecosystem goods / services / bads / disservices stemming from the different elements as perceived by the people. Thus elements from which similar ecosystem goods / services / bads / disservices are derived would be clubbed together under the same ecotope type. These two classifications may be largely compatible with each other, with a finer division characterizing the landscape ecology based system. Table 5 shows that this is the case for the Mala cluster with ecosystem goods / service based classification grouping landscape ecology categories under fewer heads.
Table 5. Correspondence between ecotype types defined in terms of landscape ecology and similarity of ecosystem goods/ services/ bads/ disservices
Landscape Ecology Based Classification
Ecosystem goods/ services (use) based classification
Disturbed evergreen forest
Evergreen forest/ forest
Private Tree Plantation
5.7.3 Finally another relevant consideration in mapping the landscape is that of ownership and tenure. In Mala cluster, for instance, three major forms of ownership prevail: forest department, land controlled by revenue department but meant for community use and privately owned land. All streams and rivers are government property, some of the tanks are private property. The ownership / tenure considerations are important in governing the access to ecosystem goods and services and should be borne in mind in the course of assessment.
F igure 4. A Landscape Map of Mala Cluster
5.8 Assessing Status and Changes
5.8.1 Preparing a checklist of the ecosystem goods and services/ bads and disservices as perceived by local people as well as from other, more global perspectives, grouping people on basis of their links to the ecosystem, identifying knowledgeable individuals and mapping the landscape in terms of elements that furnish similar sets of ecosystem goods / services, bads / disservices completes the foundation for the assessment. The parameters to be assessed belong to two broad categories (a) those with which at least some members of the local community would be familiar, and (b) those which require technical expertise unlikely to be available with any member of local community. In the former case local collaborators would also be in a position to provide some understanding of the changes in these parameters, at least over past two decades and forces driving those changes. In case of parameters demanding technical expertise it would be much more difficult to obtain information relating to changes over time. In that case changes would have to be inferred on the basis of comparisons with other localities representing the presumed earlier state. For instance, local collaborators at Mala are in a position to provide information on current status as well as changes in population of freshwater fish almost all of whom are locally consumed; and most of which have distinctive local names, but have relatively little information on the frog species. The scientific records and literature also provide little information on historical status of frog populations of the region. The only recourse to assess changes over time therefore is to look for, or freshly generate information on status of frogs in other comparable localities of Western Ghats. Of particular relevance would be localities in a similar environmental setting which have had relatively little human intervention. Two such localities are Naravi in Belthangadi taluk and Pilarkanni Udupi taluk. As a part of Mala cluster study it would be worthwhile to investigate the current status of a number of parameters such as frog populations or soil nutrient status in these localities.
5.8.2 Local assessments would employ three kinds of methodologies to generate the required understanding. These would include : (1) mapping and measurements in the field, primarily by technically trained personnel, (2) field visits, jointly by members of local community and technical experts and (3) discussions at individual, small groups or larger gatherings level by local community members working with technical experts.
6. SOIL AND WATER
Mapping and Measurement
(i) Topography and hydrology: Topographic survey maps provide the base of all further mapping. The study locality may be demarcated most conveniently on the basis of watershed boundaries. Figure 3 is such a map of Mala cluster study locality with the stream network. This watershed is a part of the Swarna river basin for which records of flow are available. Rainfall information is also available for a nearby locality. Using this information inferences will be attempted as to any adverse impacts on stream discharges. Some fresh measurements of precipitation using simple rain gauges and stream flow employing a mobile prism - a sufficiently large cylindrical pipe marked with a graduated meter scale are planned to be undertaken over the next year. Also planned are measurements of gravity diversion as well as pumping of water from streams by the farmers.
(ii) Soil erosion, siltation: Measurements in different seasons of turbidity of water in the different streams are planned to yield information on possible levels of soil erosion and siltation.
(iii) Soil quality: Systematic soil samples are being collected to represent the different landuse / land cover based ecotope types (figure 4). These will be analyzed for soil depth, soil texture, soil organic matter, soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and possibly for some important pollutants to be decided upon. Similar soil sample analysis will be carried out from the Naravi and Pilarkaan localities mentioned above for comparative studies. These results may yield information on possible levels of soil degradation.
Soil samples were so far collected from 6 different locations of Mala village. These represent different land use/ land cover classes. One more sample was collected from the scrub near the gaging location of Yennehole river. In all the locations 3 samples were collected up to a depth of approximately 85cm.
(iv) Ground water: Measurements of the depth of water table tapped by open wells will be maintained for selected wells in all the subwatersheds of the study locality. This information will be incorporated along with other hydrological information to contribute to an understanding of the watershed function of the study ecosystem.
(v) Water quality: Basic water quality parameters, Biological Oxygen Demand, Chemical Oxygen Demand, Nitrogen and Phosphorous concentrations as well as a few more sophisticated ones such as concentrations of the most intensively used organic pesticides would be measured to understand the extent to which water quality may have deteriorated.
Table 7. Some Water Properties of Mala Village
Yennehole gauging site
Yennehole gauging site
Sodium adsorption ratio
Electrical conductivity (mmho/cm)
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)
6.2Joint Field Visits of Local People and Experts
(i) Topography and hydrology: Figure 5 is a map depicting the local names of all landscape and waterscape features familiar to the people. Such a map facilitates further discussions between experts and local people by providing a commonly understood set of geographical terms; it also contributes to an understanding of the traditional landuse pattern in the study area. Field visits would also contribute to mapping the extent of time for which various streams run dry and in obtaining information on historical changes in levels of flow as well in the various demands for water, including diversion for irrigation purposes.
(ii) Soil erosion, siltation: Figure 6 is a map of joint assessment of soil erosion problems as revealed by exposure of stones and rocks and gully formation. Local people further provide an understanding of the history of these processes as well as forces driving them. They are also helping in mapping the extent and history of siltation in the streams and impact of other processes such as commercial removal of sand.
F igure 5. A map of Mala cluster watershed indicating the names of all land and water elements as employed by local people.
(iii) Ground water: Joint visits are planned to map current dry and wet season levels in open wells as well as to obtain information on the years during which bore wells were dug and the depth at which water was struck. These visits would also provide information on historical changes in ground water level.
(iv) Water quality: Joint visits are generating an understanding of nature and intensity of use of pesticides in different fields and orchards and their likely impact on water quality. In other localities considerable understanding on a variety of air, water and soil pollution problems could come as a result of such joint visits.
Table 8. Ecosystem goods/ services/ bads/ disservices associated with aquatic bodies in Mala study cluster.
Dead woods floating down
Irrigitaion / domestic
Irrigitaion / domestic
LSE : Landscape element , UG : User group
Pesticide contaminated water creates health problems for all UGs.
(i) Topography and hydrology: Individual and group discussions are resulting in a number of insights. One set of these are contributing to an inventory of aesthetically pleasing land and water features, such as rocky promontories, caves, waterfalls and deep pools, places whose beauty people wish to see preserved, their history and prospects. It is also providing an understanding of the history of surface water use, traditional irrigation and water sharing arrangements, the modern developments, including growing demands for water and their implications. For instance, it is reported that perennial crops have now greatly increased in acreage compared to paddy confined to the rainy season. This has led to a higher demand for irrigation water in the dry season. Furthermore, the traditional gravity flow irrigation is now replaced by sprinklers which greatly reduce the water going back into streams or percolating to underground water table. With increasing use of electric pump sets lifting of water from the streams, as well as from underground water table has also increased. As a result, dry season stream flows have reduced and water table has gone down to an increased depth. People are clearly aware that underground water is a renewable resource and that overuse and reduction in recharge are leading to a depletion of this capital resource. Another significant issue for discussion has been the possibility of electricity generation through microhydel projects and local people have suggested several potentially promising sites. Field visits and flow measurements at these sites are being planned.
(ii) Soil erosion: In a discussion with rubber plantation owners it was claimed that the soil conservation measures, including coverage of ground by a leguminous climber have reduced soil erosion from these areas which were earlier heavily grazed scrubby lands.
(iii) Soil quality: There is a widespread perception that a decline in the use of organic manure accompanied by an increase in the application of chemical fertilizers has led to a serious loss in soil fertility.
(iv) Water quality: There is a widespread perception that extensive use of chemical pesticides has affected water quality and thereby aquatic animals, however chemical fertilizers are not perceived as a problem in this context.
7. LAND USE
7.1 Mapping and Measurement
Figure 4, depicts as described earlier a landscape map, whose elements are different types of ecotopes which reflect different types of land use.
7.2.1 Figure 7 is a map depicting major changes in land use and land cover over the last century or so. The field work included an examination of older, natural trees present in an area to infer the nature of vegetation that must have been replaced in recent times, complemented by reporting of changes within the living memory, as well as on basis of oral histories handed down from earlier generations. Documentary sources such as land settlement records, forest working plans, district gazetteers also aid in the reconstruction of the historical changes in land use and land cover. This reconstruction is the foundation for assessment of changes in ecosystem goods/ services, as also bads/ disservice.
7.2.2 Quoted below is a sketch of Mala ecological history from the first People’s Biodiversity Register prepared in 1997.
Ecological History of Mala Major Historical Benchmarks
The Ecological history of Mala village could be traced back upto 300 years. However, for the recent past the major benchmarks in the ecological history of recent past pertaining to Mala village include the Land Reform Act of 1974, the period of Indian Emergency (1975-77) and the declaration of Kudremukh National Park in 1987. These were recognized by all groups of people.
Historical Social Changes Pre - 1974 period
The first phase of landscape changes might have been started by the Malekudiyas through shifting cultivation. The Chitpavan Brahmins probably immigrated to Dakshina Kannada District about 300-400 years ago (1600 - 1680 A.D.) as immigrants from the neighboring states of Maharashtra and Goa. They settled along the foothills of Western Ghats in Dakshina Kannada district including Mala Village. An area now called 'Mata', must have been occupied by Lingayaths (Jangamas) who were worshippers of lord 'Shiva', before the arrival of Jains some 300-400 years ago. The presence of Brahmalingeshwara temple across Kadari Hole at Ubharyl, about one kilometer from Mata, supports this view. After settling, Jains must have taken to agriculture and started paddy cultivation; while Chitpavans cleared forest patches at the foothills of Western Ghats and must have started cultivating arecanut and became horticulturists. Today, not a single Lingayat family is found in Mala village. Forces responsible for their emigration from Mala village in the distant past are unknown.
The relatively recent history shows that the society mainly comprised of various agrarian user groups with the rich landlords at the top and the insecure tenants and labourers at the bottom of the hierarchy related to land. Paddy was the main agricultural crop particularly in the plains of Mala village. In addition, horticultural cash crops such as arecanut, coconut, cashew, pepper etc were also being cultivated in the foothills of the Western Ghats. As a result two main systems of tenancy have flourished in the two agro-economic settings. The Chalageni system of tenancy evolved in the paddy cultivating zone, which may be called subsistence setting. Chalagenis were temporary tenancies and their lease was for a limited term, usually for a year or so, and was liable to be changed or terminated at will by the landlords. Chalageni tenants were quite often exploited by their landlords, since the landlords had the right to raise the rent or evict the tenant, if they refused to pay the enhanced rents. On the other hand, the Moolageni system of tenancy evolved in cash crops growing zone, which can be called commercial setting. Moolageni tenures were quite old and Moolagenigars were considered as proprietary tenants since their rights on land were perpetual. The landlords could neither enhance the rates nor evict the tenants if the rent was paid regularly. Apart from agricultural labour, Malekudiya tribals used to collect forest produce like spices and honey and sell it in the market. Fishing and practice of herbal medicine were also in vogue.
Post Land Reforms (1974) Scenario
The implementation of Land Reforms Act of 1974 had a tremendous impact on agrarian relations and user group pattern, not only in Mala but all over Dakshin Kannada. In the subsistence setting, the traditional, big landlords nearly disappeared from the scene. The hundreds of acres of land they owned partly got divided among family members and partly got sold or transferred to tenants. But hostility between the landlords and tenants continued and the landlords opposed even the fair claims of tenants and fought for resumptions of leased land for self-cultivation both by fair and unfair means. However, while it was quite tough for Chalagenigars, the moolgeni tenants reaped the benefits of land reforms. The landlords, either evacuated the latter moolgeni tenants by paying suitable compensation, or not.
One of the important outcomes of the implementation of the land reforms in the subsistence setting has been the enormous increase in the number of the marginal and small farmers and corresponding decrease in the number of large farmers. In a way, the Land Reforms Act of 1974 not only unleashed major changes in the agrarian relations and user group pattern, but also brought about changes in every section of the rural society. Of late, some migrants from Kerala settled and started rubber plantations, others engaged in rubber tapping. The various caste groups and their correlation with their occupation started diluting, due to education and economic changes.
Landscape Changes and Driving Forces The ecological history of Mala village clearly shows that landscape has been continuously changing and so also the forces moulding it, over last several decades and even centuries. Forces that led to landscape change are broadly social, economic, political and cultural. The chronological events of landscape history and the levels of biodiversity are summarized in the Table 9.
It is difficult to estimate the biodiversity levels existent in the earliest phase, some 300 years ago. But intuitively, these must have been much higher. For, people describe how dense and vast forests used to be and they were teeming with wildlife. The landscape would have been a mosaic of successional ecosystems. While Chitpavan Brahmins encroached on slope and riparian forests for arecanut plantations some 300 years ago, the forest department banned the shifting cultivation which allowed some forest restoration. However, the lust for revenue led to departmental and contractual plundering of the majestic evergreen forests for timber and plywood. Later the government gave some forest land on lease for cultivation and these got successively regularized through political pressures. This led to considerable forest encroachment. After this initial phase during the last decade the encroachment of areca cultivation on forests slowed a bit. The forest department also imposed ban on tree felling and the area was declared as Kudremukh National Park. All these events favored forest restoration in areas that today look forested. The positive picture on the forest front is contrasted by the scrub habitat that is being lost to arecanut and rubber cultivation over the last decade at a fast rate.
The ecosystem people, especially women, have to spend more time and effort to gather increasingly diminishing supplies of fuelwood, fodder and other land based resources for bare survival. The need to collect more green manure due to growth in arecanut cultivation has also resulted in the further loss of biomass support areas like scrub and accentuated soil erosion. The forest department that planted scrub with Casuarina trees earlier has now stopped such plantations altogether. This indeed is a welcome sign as it reduces additional competition pressure on the scrub species.
In addition, the new farming practices have led to the increased use of fertilizers and pesticides and also intensive irrigation. The increasing area of monoculture plantation crops, especially arecanut, coconut, and cashewnut has caused reduction in the output of foodgrains. This all is reducing diversity of local, traditional cultivars and the wild relatives of crop plants. Besides, intensive agriculture might also be affecting several species of lower animals and microorganism in the soil.
The current system of offering time bound leases for forest produce exploitation has resulted in overexploitation of forest resources. At the same time, the common lands around habitations have been further rendered poorer in quality due to over exploitation of fuelwood, exploitation of timber and uncontrolled grazing of cattle. With the conversion of kumki land to plantation crops, other scrub patches and accessible reserve forests are gradually beginning to supply biomass needed for agriculture. The ecosystem people, mainly comprising of schedule castes and schedule tribes, who have customarily depended on forest resources and traditional agricultural practices for their livelihood, have been adversely affected by diminishing forests and common lands. Of course , the special welfare schemes provided for them by the Government and NGOs have been instrumental in improving social and economic conditions, to an extent, but it is not adequate.
F igure 7. A map of Mala cluster watershed depicting major changes in land use over the last century
Table 9. Major events in the ecological history of Mala cluster of villages
Time (years before present)
Change (Nature and Magnitude)
Driving Forces (Management/Social Factors)
Impact on Biodiversity (+ve/ -ve)
Impact on People (+ve/ -ve)
Natural forests with maximum Biodiversity Elements (LSEs, species of animals and plants)
> 300 yrs bp (=before present)
Mosaics of primary and secondary forests scrub, fallows etc
Malekudiyas shifting cultivation
Loss of forest biodiversity and increase in agrobiodiversity
300-200 yrs bp
Slope and rivarine forests lost
Chitpavan Brahmins Horticulture Areca plantation
Loss of forest biodiversity and increasein agrobiodiversity continued
200-100 yrs bp
Intensification and further erosion of riverine forests
Non-Brahmin communities population growth
Further erosion of forest biodiversity increase of scrub jungles and thickets
50 yrs bp
Selective felling and degradation of forests
Forest department timber, plywood and paper industries
Fragmentation of agrobiodiversity. No significant change in forest biodiversity
Afforestation and partial restoration of forest biodiversity
15 yrs bp
Gradual forest restoration. Social forestry declaration KNP
Ban on tree felling, reserve forestry were maintained
Loss of Agrobiodiversity and intensification of plantation crops
10 yrs bp
Loss of scrubs, thickets and agricultural lands
Ontroduction of rubber plantation and intensification of Areca plantation
7.3.1 During early 1960s the forest department initiated large scale fellings for timber, for example, to meet the demands for railway sleepers, as well as auctioned off extraction of minor forest produce such as cane. This encouraged the invasion of an exotic weed, Eupatorium. A series of other ecosystem transformations followed in a cascade., After the construction of the bridge over Kadarihole and a road to Kudremukh from Karkala via Mala village in the year 1976, there have been radical changes in the land use pattern, as this road rendered accessible a huge and rich forest tract which previously supported subsistence demands of paddy and arecanut cultivators, with only a few produces such as cane baskets reaching the wider market. This historical development furnishes a case study on the effects of a large chunk of largely untouched forest being rendered accessible and getting fragmented by roads.
7.3.2 Many insights have emerged as to people’s perceptions of appropriate patterns of land use. For instance, it is felt that excessive levels of conversion of paddy fields to arecanut orchards have been undesirable as this has increased irrigation water demands to unsustainable levels; or that conversion of former village common lands used as grazing grounds to habitation or Casuarina plantations has led to a forced reduction in livestock holding and a decline in organic manure resources.
8.AGRICULTURE AND TREE CROPS
8.1Measurements carried out in collaboration with farmers
Studies for land under agriculture, i.e. under cultivation of seasonal/ annual crops and tree crops begin with the preparation of a checklist of cultivated plants (both seasonal and perennial) with scientific names, and that of cultivars (Table 10). The former is a straightforward task since the concept of botanical species is well defined. Cultivars however pose some difficulties in case of farmer’s as opposed to breeder’s varieties. The farmer’s varieties tend to be non-uniform - with a great deal of intra-varietal variation, non-stable - with a great deal of variation from generation to generation and non-distinctive - with considerable overlap with other varieties. The problem is relatively less in case of largely self-pollinated plants such as paddy, or vegetatively propagated crops like many mango varieties, but much more difficult for cross-pollinated crops. It has to be ultimately based primarily on the basis of recognition and naming by local people along with a careful recording of the attributes characterizing them. Table 11 provides such a listing of the cultivars of paddy for Mala cluster.
Table 10. A Checklist of Cultivated Plants of Mala Cluster Study Area