Is Madikeri going the Bellary way? Col Muthanna fights land mafia
The corruption-tainted BJP government in Karnataka has initiated moves at the instance of the real estate mafia to grab thousands of acres of forest and agriculture lands around Madikeri town in Kodagu district of Karnataka.
The beleaguered chief minister Jagadish Shettar who has almost lost majority in the Assembly following defection of the BJP MLAs, recently chaired an investors’ meet at Madikeri where it was claimed that investment in excess of Rs 3,500 crore was cleared.
In line with the corrupt bosses in Bangalore, the Madikeri Urban Development Authority (MUDA) has prepared a Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) to bring about huge changes in land use pattern, in and around Madikeri. They have proposed large chunks of forest and agricultural lands to be converted to commercial lands.
The President of the Coorg Wildlife Society, Col. C.P. Muthanna (in picture), a leading environmentalist, who has filed objections to the MUDA proposals, has contended that MUDA had included all proposals for conversion of those lands previously objected/refused to by the government.
Mr Muthanna has claimed that certain maps in CDP have misrepresented topographical maps, in order to avoid showing small rivulets/streams, fearing their plans may not be cleared by the Pollution Control Board as also Secretary, Environment & Forest, Bangalore.
He said if these efforts to urbanize and industrialize Kodagu are not reviewed and restricted, it would be the “final nail in the coffin for Kodagu” and would seriously jeopardize water flow into the Cauvery river. The Kodagu landscape is the principal catchment area and a vital watershed for Cauvery. Kodagu contributes about fifty per cent of the inflow into Cauvery. It is in the national interest to protect and preserve the Kodagu landscape.
Cauvery Sene and other like-minded organizations such as Coorg Wild Life Society, Field Marshal Cariappa General Thimayya Forum, Kodava Samaja Madikeri, Basavana Devarkadu Samrikshene Samithi, Kodagu Retd Defence Officers Association, have come together and urged the Karnataka government against going ahead with the diabolical plans of the real estate mafia in the national interest. Besides, farmers from Mandya district, headed by G. Made Gowda, and the ‘Cauvery family’ comprising stake-holders in Cauvery river water, have opposed the move to open up Kodagu for investment by unscrupulous business persons.
Raising objections to the government’s proposal, the Coorg Wildlife Society has stated that the MUDA proposal will cater for the projected increase in population in Madikeri for the year 2021. “The proposal is basically catering for further influx of population and not for the natural growth of population due to the birth/death rate. The implication of this issue is that if additional residential and commercial areas in Madikeri are not opened up, it will lead to a large extent curtail the influx of outsiders into Madikeri. We wish to emphasize that we firmly object to the idea of creating infrastructure in Madikeri (both residential and commercial) that will attract influx of population from outside,” the Coorg Wildlife Society has contended.
The Society has argued that the existing ethnic groups are very small in number. There is an urgent need to protect the interests of these ethnic groups. All efforts must be made to retain their culture and traditions. It is to be ensured that drastic changes in the demographic composition do not lead to their marginalization and ultimate extinction.
It has been pointed out by the Society that the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel (WGEEP) constituted under orders of the Government of India has recommended that all three taluks of Kodagu to be identified under the category of Eco Sensitive Area 1 (ESA1). In order to further review the report of the WGEEP, the Government of India has constituted a High Level Working Group under Dr K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission. Once the High Level Working Group submits its report, the Government will be taking final policy decisions with specific regard to protection of the Western Ghats. It is for consideration that while this process is under way, the entire proposal of the MUDA should be kept under abeyance.
The Society has noted that the proposal by MUDA can be discussed only after environmental impact assessment (EIA) by the concerned Government agency. The proposal must be put before the Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Government of Karnataka. This department would then initiate action for EIA. It is only after the EIA is completed, that MUDA would be in a position to call for objections from the public.
There are a number of regulations that govern construction activities in hill stations. The MUDA proposal does not seem to have taken this aspect and various other issues into consideration.
Madikeri City obtains over 100 inches of rainfall annually and yet the residents have to depend on tankers for supply of water during summer months. This indicates a fragile hill ecology that is prone to water stress due to increased population. When this is the case, how will CMC ensure water security for an increased population of 50,000? It has been stated in the MUDA proposal that the water supply will be augmented by digging additional bore wells. Such rampant exploitation of ground water in hill areas will have serious repercussions on the water table for Madikeri and the surrounding areas, the Society has pointed out.
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. Madikeri is already facing problems due to pressures of tourism. This is manifested by traffic congestion, water scarcity, accumulation of garbage, etc.
Madikeri is located within ten km radius of the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. MUDA must therefore take into full consideration the Guidelines for declaration of Eco Sensitive Zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries as given in Ministry of Environment.
Meanwhile, the Convenor of the Cauvery Sene, K.A. Ravi Chengappa, in a memorandum to urban development minister Suresh Kumar, has called for cancellation of the Comprehensive Development Plan proposed by MUDA and also review the memorandums of understanding signed during the recent investors meet in Kodagu.