The Karnataka government recently announced plans to increase tourist traffic to the Jog Falls in Shivamogga, by making it a perennial waterfall and building new infrastructure in the area to accommodate increased crowds. The proposed project, estimated to cost Rs 185 crore, will include a five-star hotel, viewing deck, amphitheatre, boating and other facilities. It also plans to release 200 cusecs of water into the rain-fed falls, to ensure that its splendour can be experienced throughout the year. However, this has drawn sharp criticism from environmental activists and prominent writers from the state
During his visit to Shivamogga district on June 25, state Tourism Minister CP Yogeshwara had said that tenders to construct the tourism facilities were finalised, and that the works will be undertaken by the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited
Eminent Kannada writer Dr Na Dâ€™Souza, artist HG Aruna, power policy analyst Shankar Sharma, along with noted environmental activists Akilesh Chipli, Ajay Sharma and others have said that the Jog Falls development project is ecologically destructive. "It is a disaster in the making as construction activity could trigger landslides. Slope stability is a major concern in this eco-sensitive region and this project could also alter the ecosystem," Dr Na D'Souza said in a video message. He added that Jog attracts people for its natural beauty and it should remain that way, and that the government's proposed plan is ill-thought-out.
Power policy expert Shankar Sharma observed that the grandiose plan of releasing 200 cusecs of water to the Jog Falls from the Linganamakki hydro reservoir to ensure that the splendour of the Jog Falls was available all through the 365 days in a year is itself a flawed idea.
"In the first phase, 200 cusecs of water will be released from the Linganamakki hydro reservoir on government holidays and the quantity of water released will be increased to 300 cusecs daily. How can it be done without causing destruction to the large-scale environment?", he questioned, adding that the region is one of the eight most ecological sensitive regions in the country.
Noted artist HG Aruna concurred that the project will harm the ecology of the region. "Jog Falls do not just belong to the people of Karnataka but they belong to the whole world. We should not spoil the natural beauty associated with it," he said.
Environment activist Akilesh Chipli said that it is a disaster in the making as construction activity could trigger landslides and slope stability is a major concern. "Both KPCL and the Jog Management Authority will be doing grave injustice to the people of the region by dancing to the tunes of their political masters. It would be even more a disaster if the Karnataka Forest Department concedes to the demand of Shivamogga MP, BY Raghvendra's demands," he said.
A statement by the United Conservation Movement said that the Karnataka governmentâ€™s plan to develop the Jog Falls like the Niagara Falls in the US and Canada will not work. It explained that the US and Canada have a much larger area of forest landscape compared to India, and that â€śdisturbing the existing ecology for the sake of attracting more tourists, only amounts to gross injustice to ecologically sensitive regions like Western Ghats
On June 25, Minister Yogeshwar had said that two hotels to accommodate 1,000 tourists would be established in the region. He also announced that Jog Falls will be part of Karnataka's ambitious heli-tourism circuit
Justifying the project, the minister had said that the tourism and hospitality industry contributes to 14.85% to the stateâ€™s GDP, and directly and indirectly employs over 50 lakh people
(With agency inputs)