Bengaluru: Woken up by repeated earthquakes and landslides in Kodagu, the State Government is planning to ban land conversion for commercial purposes.
Revenue Minister R. Ashoka told reporters in Bengaluru yesterday that he would discuss the issue with geologists and would personally examine the ground situation visit Kodagu before taking a decision.
Admitting that rampant commercialisation of agricultural land, forest (including deemed forest) land and hillocks was the main reason for flash floods and landslides, the Minister said that he would visit Kodagu along with a team of geologists and take a call on banning land conversion for commercial purposes.
It may be mentioned here that the State Government diluted the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, through an amendment to Section 109 enabling the direct purchase of agricultural land from farmers. Environment activists have repeatedly said that the amendment will have devastating consequences for the district as reckless urbanisation has already caused a negative impact on the environment.
“Loose soil is causing landslides as hillocks have been eroded of their topsoil and vegetation and in the name of commercialisation. Houses and resorts have been built to attract customers. Earth movers are being used to excavate hillocks and foundations laid for homestays,” he said.
4,000 illegal homestays
In Kodagu, there are only 450 registered homestays while there are over 4,000 unregistered ones and there is a need to regulate them after conducting a physical survey, the Minister said.
Non-Government Organisations like the Coorg Wildlife Society and the Kodagu Samrakshana Vedike have repeatedly said that unbridled urbanisation and infrastructure development are the main reasons for floods in 2018 and 2019 and the present quakes and landslips.
In June 2020, a team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, came out with new findings on the urbanisation and change in land use patterns in Kodagu. The study was conducted by T.V. Ramachandra, S. Vinay and S. Bharat of Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences. They said that vegetation cover including forest has declined from 45.44 percent to 44.46 percent and agricultural areas are being converted to construct resorts. This imbalance in the forest cover can lead to abrupt change in hydrological status, increased temperatures, higher instances of landslides and high soil erosion, they opined.