Lush green space destroyed; landslide threat looms large
Madikeri: First it was ‘Coorg Village’ in the premises of Raja’s Seat at Madikeri that was built despite opposition from the local residents and now it is the overall development works taken up at the same venue.
The Kodagu District Administration and the powers that be seems to have not learnt lessons from the devastating floods and landslides for three consecutive years — from 2018 to 2020 — and are going ahead in making the once famed and green garden into a concrete jungle.
Raja’s Seat is located at a height and gives a bird’s eye view of the beautiful town of Madikeri and on the other side it is the Ghat section leading to Mangaluru. During the bygone years, it was this place where the king used to sit and admire the nature’s beauty. As the king was regular in visiting this spot and used to spend time, a small structure was built so that he could sit there. The name Raja’s Seat translates to King’s Seat.
Unfortunately, the hilly areas surrounding the view point have been carved with earth-movers and other heavy machines now, directly threatening the Mangaluru Highway if at all there are landslides. Despite the Geological Survey of India (GSI) submitting a series of reports not to disturb the hilly areas in the name of development, this work has been taken up and one look at the works on a steep gradient tells any visitor that the works are an open invitation to danger — a ticking time bomb as landslides might occur at any time bringing the whole mountain onto the National Highway 275.
Destructive contour works
Added to the threat of landslides is that it is raining non-stop in Kodagu, especially Madikeri and the rains have exposed the unscientific works taken up in the name of development at Raja’s Seat. It may be recalled here that when the Gajagiri Hill (Brahmagiri Hill Range) collapsed killing five people at Talacauvery last year, it was later discovered by the GSI that the ‘Ingu Gundi’ (soak pits) and contour trenches atop Brahmagiri Hill ranges dug by the Forest Department had caused the hill to crash.
Similar type of contour works is being taken up at Raja’s Seat making the place a dump yard of concrete structures. In 2018, the low-lying area of Raja Seat witnessed massive landslides. Despite warnings by geologists, excavating machines were used to dig the hills, said environmentalists. The works have been taken up by cutting down huge trees and pathways and steps have been installed along with two watch towers and three ornamental arches.
The installation of steps, side walls, pathways, concrete steps and other structures has spoilt the beauty of the place that was lush green and windy. Tourists flocked this place to spend a quiet moment with nature and now they have to sit on benches and watch towers amidst an eroded landscape. Those who do not have any knowledge of the topography of Kodagu have been conceptualising projects which are against the well-being of nature as well as people while the elected representatives have sadly turned a blind eye.
In fact, Raja’s Seat is maintained by the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage and as per the conservation norms, no concrete building can be constructed within 100 m of a protected area.
“Though the toy train at Raja’s Seat stopped chugging three years ago, there is no mention of the repair of the much-demanded toy train in the new projects and sadly, the authorities are destroying the very beauty of the place and this is a senseless development,” said Harish J. Acharya of Veeranaadu Rakshana Vedike.
“This is a sort of hegemony by the District Administration and the elected representatives who are squandering public money in the name of development. We don’t need such mindless development. In fact, none of the roads in Madikeri are fit to even walk with full of potholes and the Private Bus Stand has become a slush-pool as they took up some unscientific work, against nature. This side of the hill at Raja’s Seat is destined to collapse,” he added.
There was a natural equilibrium when the entire place was lush green and with the development of Coorg Village and this particular concrete works have tilted the balance towards devastation and this is nothing but disfigurement in the name of development, Harish Acharya said, threatening to go to court against the development.
The area below Raja’s Seat was developed and named as Coorg Village where 15 stalls have been set up and products for which Kodagu is famous would be made available for the tourists. Opposition from local residents and environmentalists was bulldozed and the works were taken up in a tearing hurry.
In fact, veteran politician and former Minister M.C. Nanaiah had taken strong exception to Coorg Village and said that it was an ill-conceived project and the money could be better utilised for the ecological enrichment of the Raja’s Seat garden and its surroundings.
He had opined that sudden developments were bound to result in the destruction of the pristine surroundings of Raja Seat. Now his views have come true as the green place has turned into an ugly space, with many constructions.