Green activist Col Muthanna sees red over haphazard tourism in Kodagu
Environmentalist Col C.P. Muthanna has urged the Karnataka government to regulate tourism in Kodagu, instead of allowing the haphazard growth of resorts and hotels.
Excerpts from Col Muthanna’s letter to the state tourism minister is given below:
1. Kodagu district is a vital catchment area of Cauvery River that sustains millions of people in South India. It is therefore in the national interest to protect and preserve the environment and eco-systems of Kodagu. It is for consideration that Kodagu is a hilly area with heavy rainfall which embodies a very fragile ecology that could be easily degraded. Kodagu is also the homeland of several small indigenous communities who will be rapidly marginalized if they are separated from their land.
2. In this context, it would be extremely important to regulate tourism in Kodagu so that it does not meet the same fate as other hill areas such as Shimla, Mussoorie, Ooty, etc. These regions have seen severe degradation of the landscape due to massive tourist influx.
We are therefore happy to note that the Karnataka Tourism Policy 2009-14 [Annexure 1] makes a special mention of this aspect. Para 3 of the Introduction states: “Eco- tourism in Western Ghat Districts like Kodagu, Chikmaglur and Shimoga is an important component of Karnataka Tourism. In order to preserve the serene atmosphere of these locales, it is important not to encourage construction of large hotels——”.
However, despite this, it is a matter of deep concern that a number of hotels and resorts are proliferating all over Kodagu. Such projects are enjoying substantial government subsidies through the Tourism Department.
3. While the promotion of tourism in any region is beneficial up to a point, we note with deep concern that Kodagu has already reached a stage where massive tourist influx threatens the fragile and precious ecology of Kodagu and the very societal fabric of the indigenous communities. Towns such as Madikeri are already reeling under water shortage and lack proper waste management systems. Kodagu is also losing hundreds of acres of tree cover due to construction of resorts and hotels. In several cases, the constructions are on steep slopes that have been gouged to make the hotel foundation. A photograph of a recently constructed hotel close to Madikeri is attached. Pollution and improper location of hotels is another aspect. A photo is attached of a newly constructed hotel in Gonikoppal town that is located very close to the edge of a stream that is already heavily polluted. During a recent weekend the streets of Madikeri were clogged with vehicles and there were chaotic scenes due to the entry of thousands of tourists. Madikeri was once a serene, peaceful town. Today, tourism has turned it into a dirty and polluted city like Ooty.
4. I have also attached a newspaper report which shows the degradation of the Irupu fall in South Kodagu due to uncontrolled entry of tourists. This is one of the sacred spots for the people of Kodagu. There is a growing resentment of further efforts to developing tourism in Kodagu without taking the opinion of the people. For example, the plan to introduce heli-tourism in Bhagamandla is coming under flak from local organizations. A related newspaper report is attached. Due to large scale purchase of land for tourist resorts and hotels, the people are tempted to sell their land. Separating the land from the people will have serious long-term repercussions on the indigenous communities of Kodagu who have very small populations.
5. In the light of the above facts, it is apparent that tourism in Kodagu needs to be carefully ‘regulated’ rather than ‘promoted’. Some of the steps that we recommend are as follows:
A. All subsidies for hotels and resorts should be discontinued till a proper assessment is carried out on the environmental impact of the hotels and resorts in Kodagu and the carrying capacity for tourists in the District.
B. Other financial inputs for promoting tourism in Kodagu should also be restricted for a period of at least three years till the assessment is completed.
C. The District tourism committee should include some well known NGOs of Kodagu such as the Coorg Wildlife Society, Kodagu Model Forest Trust and Cauvery Sene.
D. There is growing resentment among the people of Kodagu due to the heavy tourist influx that is defiling our places of worship such as Talacauvery and Irupu. The tourist department must make an attempt to ascertain the true mood of the indigenous communities of Kodagu.
6. In the ultimate analysis, heavy influx of tourists into areas such as Kodagu would bring some economic benefit only to a small section of society. But even this is at a very heavy cost. Continued encouragement to the tourist industry would lead to the ruination of the fragile socio-environmental fabric of Kodagu. I have enclosed a copy of an e-mail that I recently received which is being circulated in Kodagu.
7. In view of the facts given in this letter, I request you to give urgent consideration to regulating and moderating tourism in Kodagu, rather than promoting and encouraging investment in the tourism industry in the District