Nothing wrong in making money through tourism, but should it be at the cost of nature?

Karnataka Environmentalists against Jog Falls development at the cost of nature Image: Jog Falls, Bharath Achutha Bhat/ Flickr
news Jog Falls Thursday, August 04, 2016 - 12:54

The Karnataka government is all set to turn Jog Falls into India’s Niagara Falls, a move that has environment activists all riled up.

Along with the Jog Management Authority, the state Tourism Department has proposed a cantilever viewing gallery at the famous Jog falls, facilitating a clear and picturesque view of the cascade from every angle. The proposal also includes a request to divert an acre of forest land for the project.

The Sharavathi river, which rises in Thirthahalli taluk in Shivamogga district, crosses into Uttara Kannada district at a rocky bed creating the Jog Falls. The falls comprise four distinct falls – Raja, Rani, Roarer, and Rocket.

Priyank Kharge, tourism minister told The News Minute that the JMA and the department has many plans on hold. Currently is waiting for is approval for land from the Forest Department for some infrastructural development for tourists.

Asked what about the summer months when the waterfall dry up, Kharge said that they are working on implementing a reverse pumping system that will make the water falls a tourist spot through the year. 

While the Tourism Department waits for a nod from the Environment and Forests Department, activists say that the Jog should be developed into an all-season tourist spot, but not at the cost of the environment.

Shivamogga-based activist Ravi Kumar, says that only nature-friendly and sustainable development experiments can make the spot more endearing.

“The road leading to the falls is about 20 feet wide. It is an ideal place to trek, but dangerous to ride on. Now because of constructions like a viewing gallery, there would be a need for a wider road. Subsequently parts of forest around will have to be cut down. All this for barely three months of the tourist activity,” he said.

The government has been pushing for public-private partnership for development including reverse pumping of water that would turn the falls into an all season tourist spot.

Ravi however, is opposed to artificially making the waterfall a year-round phenomenon. 

“Jog Falls are naturally seasonal. Tourist activity is in full flow only between July and October. Sometimes to push the tourist season, water from the Linganmakki reservoir is released to the waterfalls on weekends. But during summer months there is hardly any water,” he said.

When there is less of tourist activity, uncalled for activities will be on a rise, he said.

The activist said that after the release of the Kannada movie ‘Mungaru Male’ - which has many breath-taking scenes of the falls - safety has been a major concern.

“Many people have died after slipping from rocks in their bid to reach the spot where the scintillating shots were taken. Apart from installing a few boards advising caution, the administration has done precious little to prevent the mishaps. Already youngsters come here and drink. Now with all these developmental works proposed it will only lead to more such unnecessary activities,” he added. 

He says that for all the government’s grand plans, the Jog Management Authority, set up in 2000 by the then chief minister SM Krishna had done precious little in all this time.

“Since the JMA was constituted, those major developmental works that can be quoted are - an arch and a guest house built near the area. The JMA fenced a pond next to the fall. But in the past decade there have been many hotels cottages that have been built around the area eating away the green cover.”

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