The protest is against the proposed expansion of NH-275 (Bengaluru-Bantwal), as well as other projects, which will account for the felling of nearly 4 lakh trees.

Environmentalists across Ktaka to join Save Kodagu Save Cauvery rally on SaturdayBy Rameshng (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
news Environment Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - 18:37

Environmentalists across Karnataka especially those based in Bengaluru and Mysuru, are set to join a massive protest under 'Save Kodagu, Save Cauvery' banner on December 8. The protest will be held at the Gandhi Maidan at Kodagu’s Madikeri against the proposed expansion of National Highway 275 (Bengaluru-Bantwal).

The project aims to turn 60 km of the highway between Kushalnagar, Madikeri and Sampaje to four lanes. Expansion of this eco-sensitive stretch is vehemently opposed by organisations of United Kodava Organisation, Cauvery Sene and Coorg Wildlife Society. They argue that the region which is still recovering from the devastating floods and landslides in August, will be further ill-prepared for such rains if further green cover is lost. Objections have also been raised on the ground if there is even a need for expanding the highways, as it sees congestion only during weekends and holiday season.

President of Coorg Wildlife Society, Colonel (Retired) CP Muthanna told TNM, “This protest is not only important for the people of Kodagu but also for Bengaluru and other lower riparian areas. Including this project, there are four national highways, two railway lines that have been planned in the region. If all this goes according to plan, then around four lakh trees have to be sacrificed.”

“Already 50,000 trees have been lost due to Mysuru-Kozhikode power line and there is an increased conversion of land that is taking place. Around 2,800 acres of land have been converted between 2005 to 2018 and Madikeri city is planned to be expanded three times by 2030 as per the comprehensive development plan. All this while, nobody is talking about the destruction of green cover and how that will affect the catchment of Cauvery. A large part of south India depends on Cauvery for its food and water needs on the river and hence on Coorg. All these four projects will cost Rs 10,000 crore at least. Rather than engaging in this destruction, they can use the funds to incentivise sustainable lifestyle and subsidise the livelihoods of people living in the eco-sensitive areas.”  

Read: Kodagu in distress: How rampant deforestation and tourism led to landslides and floods

Similarly, Joseph Hoover, a Bengaluru-based environmental conservationist and activist has blamed the short-sightedness of the political class in going ahead with the project. He said, “We will understand the importance of Kodagu only when the taps run dry in Bengaluru. Kodagu has already been devastated by the recent rains and floods.”

In an open letter, PT Bopanna, senior journalist and author from Kodagu has asked Union Minister for Highways Nitin Gadkari to stop the project. He wrote that the proposal of road expansion has spread panic among the people and also increased man-animal conflict. He has also argued that experts from Geological Survey of India (GSI) in their final report concluded that the disaster in August was “man-made” and felling of thousands of mature trees will be a recipe for disaster.

Even during the mandated public consultation procedure held in Kushalnagar, members of these organisations including some hoteliers have raised their objections with the National Highways Authority of India. A delegation led by President of Coorg Wildlife Society Col. Muthanna had earlier led a delegation to Kodagu Deputy Commissioner P Sreevidya, to oppose the project.

 

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