They gave a petition to JD(S) leader Padmini Ponnappa, who promised to take the matter up with the CM’s office.

Save Kodagu Save Cauvery 500 environmentalists protest highway project
news Environment Sunday, December 09, 2018 - 15:05

At least 500 environmentalists across Karnataka marched to Madikeri on Saturday against the expansion of the National Highway 275 (Bengaluru-Bantwal) between Kushalnagar, Madikeri and Sampaje as part of the 'Save Kodagu, Save Cauvery' campaign. The large crowd was also a show of strength against the Centre’s plan of revamping and expanding four national highways and two railway lines passing through the fragile terrain, which is still recovering from the devastating floods in August.

At the end of the rally, the organisers submitted their resolution to regional JD(S) leader Padmini Ponnappa, who in turn promised to take the matter up with the Chief Minister’s office. The protesters also asked for greater allocation of flood relief plan for the region instead of these development projects.

“Since she is a localite, she understands the problems of these projects and understands the sentiment of the local people. We have handed her a strongly worded petition and she has assured that she will arrange a meeting between a delegation of all the stakeholders of the project and the Chief MInister,” J Manjunath, president of Wilderness Club in Bengaluru, who was part of the protests, told TNM.

At Gandhi Maidan, the venue of the rally, there was a slight commotion between some local groups allegedly at the behest of sand and timber mafia, who are in favour of four laning of the highway. But eventually police drove away the section of people.

“We have assembled to oppose these destructive projects worth Rs 10,000 crore. The ones that have come here are of vested interest groups and politicians have tried to disrupt this peaceful protest. But we will go ahead and get success in this struggle which is to protect Kodagu. Kodagu is the principle catchment of Cauvery which is sustaining the water and food needs of 8 crore people of south India,” Colonel (Retired) CP Muthanna, President of Coorg Wildlife Society and co-ordinator of ‘Save Kodagu, Save Cauvery’ campaign, said.

“What we are doing is of national interest and we are very proud of what we are doing. We will not be deterred by these miscreants,” he added.

Speaking to TNM, Colonel Muthanna argued that the entire project of four-laning Highway 275 is nothing but a money making machine for a select group of people with no public use.

“It is not a very congested route to begin with. Heavy traffic is during weekends and holiday season. This is a money creaming scheme. Four lanes can be done only upto Madikeri, and it does not make sense. These are a massive use of public money. Rs 10,000 crore could be used for disaster relief for the people affected in the floods. God forbid if these projects go on as planned, there will be further such disasters. The government can promote and subsidise sustainable livelihoods in this region with this kind of money,” he said.

“The protection of Western Ghats is a win-win situation as the food and water economics of most of South India can be preserved instead of using this money for destruction in the narrative of development. There is no proper sanitation, garbage management and water supply during summer in Kodagu, first priority should be given to these issues,” he added.  

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

Earlier, In an open letter, PT Bopanna, senior journalist and author from Kodagu 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.

Also read: Victory for Kodagu residents as Centre scraps railway line proposal

This K’taka district doesn’t want a rail link, and has good reasons for it

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