Tourism Secretary asks Kodagu DC to submit fresh estimate for project completion
By Prasad Sampigekatte
Madikeri: With the completion of nearly 80 percent of the works of the Kodava Heritage Centre near K. Badaga village on the outskirts of Madikeri, the structure is now awaiting the attention of the authorities to finish the remaining tasks.
The ambitious project, launched by the Government to preserve the rich Kodava heritage culture, customs and practices, has faced significant delays, reflecting the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities.
While the completion of the works was understandably impacted by the recently concluded Assembly polls, the people of Kodagu are growing increasingly anxious about when the project will finally reach its completion.
The project was initially conceptualised nearly 20 years ago by retired IAS Officer Rathi Vinay Jha (from Codanda family) while serving in the Union Ministry of Tourism.
Her deep interest in preserving Kodava heritage led to the Union Government announcing a grant of Rs. 88 lakh for the project in 2004. However, due to the State Government’s apathy, it took six long years for the authorities to identify a suitable site for the construction.
Land identified in 2010
Eventually, in 2010, the Kodagu District Administration identified a 5-acre area near K. Badaga village on the outskirts of Madikeri. Once the land was identified, the Government developed a detailed blueprint for the project, which included the construction of two model ‘Ainmanes’ (ancestral Kodava houses).
The plan outlined the use of red stones and the distinctive Kodava architectural style for the entire structure. However, the initial grant of Rs. 88 lakh from the Centre was insufficient, prompting the State Government to release an additional Rs. 2.68 crore.
In 2013, the Public Works Department (PWD) was assigned the task of executing the works, a significant nine years after the project was announced. Despite the initial enthusiasm of the contracted construction company, its commitment waned over time, leading to a complete halt in the construction. As a result, the structure fell into disrepair, vulnerable to the natural elements.
In 2018, the State revised the project cost to Rs. 3.30 crore due to cost escalation. Meanwhile, the contracted construction company was blacklisted for breaching the contract. The project also faced multiple setbacks due to natural disasters that occurred between 2018 and 2020, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, further exacerbating the deterioration of the structure.
During this tumultuous period, the wooden roof of the structure collapsed due to natural calamities, necessitating a redesign of the roof. It was decided to replace the wooden roof with a steel-reinforced concrete structure.
Subsequently, a local contractor from Madikeri was enlisted to construct the concrete rooftop, retaining walls, landscaping and other civil works at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crore. The remaining tasks included completing the rooftops of the two Ainmanes, constructing an entry arch, kitchen room, stairs, an amphitheatre and installing panels on doors and windows. Currently, approximately 80 percent of the work has been completed.
Fresh estimate called for
In addition, a 25 KV transformer has been installed at the site. While the State has released Rs. 2.82 crore thus far, an additional Rs. 48 lakh is required to complete this ambitious heritage project, which holds immense pride for the Kodavas and Kodagu.
Recently, Dr. N.V. Prasad, the Secretary of the Tourism Department, directed Kodagu Deputy Commissioner Dr. B.C. Satish to submit a fresh estimate for the completion of the project. In a video conference with the Kodagu DC, Dr. Prasad discussed the pending works, and the DC assured that a fresh estimate would be submitted after consulting with the district’s legislators.
The pending tasks primarily include polishing the lateral walls of the heritage structure and installing an entrance gate.