Another group agitates to demand National Highway expansion
Madikeri: A massive protest by environmentally concerned citizens was organised under the banner of “Save Kodagu, Save Cauvery” in Madikeri this morning where over 1,500 people participated. They agitated against the proposed expansion of National Highway 275 (Bengaluru-Bantwal via Kushalnagar, Suntikoppa, Madikeri and Sampaje) and implementation of Railway projects passing through Kodagu District.
Along with this protest, one more demonstration was organised by over 200 people who were in favour of Highway expansion and Railway projects. They included members from political parties and people who favour tourism promotion and trade. They demanded development projects as they would boost tourism and generate employment in the region.
Protesters who favoured projects staged demonstration on one side of protest venue at Gandhi Maidan where “Save Kodagu” rallyists had gathered to hold a public meeting. This caused tension for some time and the Police had to intervene to maintain law and order.
Earlier, Members of “Save Kodagu” Rally took to streets from Mann’s Compound (General Thimmaiah Grounds) in Madikeri by holding banners, placards and signages. The protestors marched along the main streets of Madikeri shouting slogans against the apathetic attitude of the State and Central Governments.
They raised their voice against the projects including Railway line, national highways and proposed dams. The protest got a major boost as huge number of environmentalists and natives of Kodagu who are based in Bengaluru, Chennai, Mangaluru, Mysuru joined.
Speakers from various organizations addressed the agitators and later a memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner. The agitation was spearheaded by Kodagu Maraka Yojane Virodhi Vedike, Coorg Wildlife Society, United Kodava Organisation and Cauvery Sene.
Addressing rallyists at Gandhi Maidan, Kodagu Maraka Virodhi Yojane President Rajiv Bopaiah threatened to intensify the agitation if governments do not drop these projects in the larger interests of people of Kodagu. He came down heavily against the people who were favouring these project neglecting the pristine beauty and interest of Kodagu.
He alleged that the implementation of these projects would cause serious ecological damages and destroy pristine green cover in the district. Both the highways and the proposed railway lines will destroy Kodagu and people must fight against these projects tooth and nail.
President of Coorg Wildlife Society, Colonel (Retired) C.P. Muthanna, who is also the Coordinator of Save Kodagu and Cauvery Campaign came down heavily on Central and State governments for allocating Rs. 10,000 crore for these projects when they failed to rehabilitate the tragedy-struck people of Kodagu affected in the recent landslides.
Cauvery River Swatchata Andolana Convener Chandramohan, Vedike activist Ravindra, State coordinator B.C. Nanjappa, Ravi Chengappa, others were present.
Loss of green cover
Widening the road will damage thousands of commercial and residential properties in Kushalnagar, Suntikoppa and Madikeri. Even if the Highway is made to bypass some of the cities and towns, there will be a massive loss of green cover in this region of Kodagu that forms the catchment of River Cauvery, he said.
Apart from increasing man-elephant conflict due to the depletion of green cover, the project will result in rapid and uncontrolled urbanisation and will ultimately result in the areas going dry without rainfall. This will lead to drying up of already weakened River Cauvery, he cautioned.
Threat to River Cauvery
Widening of NH 275 will make the presently green terrain barren and this will lead to more landslides and will threaten the very existence of River Cauvery as thousands of trees will be felled in the river catchment area. The current traffic density of 2,500 to 3,000 vehicles per day does not warrant four-lane conversion of the existing two-lane Highway.