Environmentalists hold massive protest against ruinous development projects
Tucked in the south-west part of Karnataka, Kodagu district has a unique landscape, due to which it is called as “Scotland of Karnataka”. Kodagu holds a special place with picturesque series of hills and hillocks, evergreen forests on their slopes and wildlife such as tigers, elephants, peacocks and porcupines inhabiting them. Above all, the River Kaveri, which is also called as “Dakshina Ganga”, takes birth at Talakaveri in Kodagu district. River Kaveri has been the vital lifeline (jeevanadi) of southern Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, providing drinking water and fulfilling the agricultural needs of the people of both states.
The people of Kodagu – the Kodavas – have immense love and a sense of great pride for their district. One of the greatest names ever heard in the history of Indian defence forces – Field Marshall Kodandera Madappa Cariappa – is from Kodagu district. His son Nanda Cariappa has retired from the Indian Air Force after a distinguished service. Gen. K. S. Thimmaiah too served our nation with flying colours. Besides these two, many Kodavas have rendered selfless service in the Indian defence forces.
With the change of time, the pace of development increased too. Many people migrated towards major cities to make a living. For these people to live and travel, need arose for land, shelter, construction materials and water to build homes, rail and road networks. Besides, need also arose for electrification network of high-tension wires to supply power to towns and cities. In order to fulfil all these demands, forests and lakhs of trees were mercilessly cut.
The brazen destruction of forests, trees and water resources in the name of development resulted in consequences such as great reduction in rainfall. Also, the reduction of forest areas resulted in wild animals such as elephants and tigers venturing into villages in search of food, resulting in man-animal conflict and loss of lives and property. Such cases have increased in the recent times.
The people of Kodagu, well-wishers as well as all those that loved the district realised the various dangers facing the district. All of them came together and submitted to the central and state government and their representatives a written appeal along with facts stating the dangers of ruinous development products in Kodagu. However, due to lack of positive response from any authority, the environmentalists, under the aegis of “Kodagu Maraka Abhivruddhi Virodhi Vedike” decided to stage a massive protest march in Madikeri on 08 December 2018.
The environmentalists assembled at Mann’s Compound at around 11 in the morning. Shouting slogans about saving Kodagu and saving Kaveri river, the environmentalists marched peacefully through the Junior College Road, went past Madikeri Private Bus Station, Mungerira Muthanna Circle, District Commissioner’s Office and assembled at the Gandhi Mantapa premises.
Vedike head Rajeev Bopaiah in his speech expressed fears that this district would greatly suffer due to the ruinous railway and four-lane highway development projects. He said such projects should not be allowed in Kodagu. He added that the calamity that befell Kodagu last August was due to destruction of environment; the rail and four-lane highway projects pose more damage than benefits to the locals; hence we should not allow destruction of the valuable landscape of Kodagu.
Noted Kannada film actor-director and environmentalist Suresh Heblikar clarified that the this protest was not opposed to any government or political party, but only wanted to ensure that the future generations should be able to lead their lives peacefully. The Western Ghats is home to more than 50 rivers and has a unique biodiversity system. The recent calamity in Kodagu was due to unnecessary human interference in the ecosystem; the government should instead focus on sustainable development.
Convenor and Coorg Wildlife Society President Col. Cheppudira Muthanna, Eco chief Manju Chinnappa, Kaveri Sene chief Ravi Chengappa also spoke at this gathering. A memorandum was submitted to local Janata Dal (Secular) leader Padmini Ponnappa. She agreed that it was wrong to force such unwanted developmental projects even when the locals do not want them. She assured the gathering that she would explain the pros and cons of these projects to Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.