Three days ago, on December 1st, the Technical Committee of the Institution of Engineers (India) met the Mysuru DC and submitted a fantastic recommendation.
The Committee recommended that the 1.4-kilometre stretch of road between the Nandi Statue and Chamundi Hill View Point, prone to landslides, be converted into a trekking path. Now, while at it, why not think about ways to stop all public traffic to the top?
Traffic is getting heavier by the day, so how long can we allow the loaded tourist buses and vehicles to spew smoke and litter the road to the top with everything from empty packets of potato chips to sanitary pads?
Is it finally time to find another means of transport to go up the Hill? Could electric buses, cable cars or funiculars be the answer?
I have visited two cities, Salzburg in Germany and Budapest, Hungary; both cities have small hills like our own Chamundi Hill, albeit, instead of a temple, they both have castles atop their hills. Both are international tourist destinations. And in both places, tourists are forced to take the funicular, a kind of cable car which moves on rail tracks but uses electricity and a counter-weight system.
In both cities, if one wants to go up the Hill, they have to take a funicular, walk up the steps or the road. One of the funicular has two stops, one in the middle of the Hill and then at the top. Similarly, maybe we too could have a stop at Nandi and then at the Hilltop.
In fact, the Saptashrungi Devi temple in Nashik, Maharashtra, has two funiculars that take the devotees up the 4,500 ft. Hill in just two minutes. If this kind of funicular is indeed a viable way to enjoy the Hill without vehicular traffic and pollution, then maybe an area close to the foothill can be earmarked. Here people can park their vehicles and walk to the funicular or ropeway station to go up the Hill.
If the funicular is found to be unviable as it will require cutting trees, then electric buses can be used as the mode of transport to the Hilltop. In fact, an already existing Government project could be enhanced for this.
In April 2016, the then District in-Charge Minister laid the foundation for a ‘Parking Plaza’ on the Exhibition Grounds. The parking lot is expected to hold 500 cars and 800 two-wheelers. Along with this, they are also building a ‘One-Stop Tourist Plaza’ where tourists can buy tickets to all tourist places while enjoying the delicacies in the food court.
There is still 10 acres of land lying vacant in this area, so why not build the multi-level parking here on a much larger scale and provide ‘Hop-On-Hop-Off’ electric bus services with a simple four-stop route — the Mysore Palace, the Mysuru Zoo, Karanji Lake and Chamundi Hill. The Exhibition Grounds being a central location makes this very viable.
A similar arrangement which has been deployed on Ashada Fridays in the last four years has not only found success in reducing traffic on the Hill but also reduced pollution.
When a not-so-popular tourist destination like Tungabhadra Dam, which is located on a hill, can ban parking atop the Hill and have a bus service from the parking lot at the foothill, why not a tourist-heavy city like Mysuru? Similarly, in Matheran, the famed hill station just 100 kms from Mumbai, cars are not allowed up. Instead, a car park is provided at the base from where tourists can take a pony up the Hill or walk it up; it’s just a 40-minute walk like our Hill. Why can’t we follow these examples of eco-friendly development?
Then there is the issue of the people who live on the Hill. The Government can issue special permits for their vehicles. But what if they start using it to ferry tourists up and down the Hill for a fee? Well, it is up to the Government to fix such loopholes.
For now, the Technical Committee of the Institution of Engineers (India) estimates that to repair the damages would be Rs. 30 crore, and it has rightly noted that even if the stretch is restored, “in view of the increasing threat of climate change-related extreme events causing saturation and erosion, there may be little guarantee of its continuing to provide safe motorable roads. This road may require heavy and repeated expenditure for maintenance and repairs.”
While the phrase “repeated expenditure” may get politicians and contractors excited as it’s perennial income, we hope they take the “threat to life” seriously and hence the Committee’s recommendation.
Now, while successive Governments don’t seem to care for the Hill, what about Mysureans? Every Mysurean, who has found peace, love and truth in this oasis of green, has a duty to protect the Hill.
Chamundi Hill is the best topographical accident that has happened to this city. Yes, it is the home of Goddess Chamundeshwari and if we truly love her or at least her abode, then let us stop people from constantly finding ways to disfigure the Hill with grand “touristy” plans because Chamundi Hill is the jewel in our city’s landscape — looking green and giving us air that’s clean. Let this jewel of Mysuru not turn into an ‘Eyesoru.’
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