A few days ago Minister for Tourism, Environment and Ecology C.P. Yogeeshwar directed the Department officials to draw a plan of action for the Chamundi Hill ropeway project. And with that the scarring of Chamundi Hill begins, again.
In 2019, there was a landslide on Chamundi Hill. About 50 ft. of road connecting the Nandi Statue area to the View Point on the main road broke off from the Hillside and slid to a depth of 22 feet. This incident, back then, had prompted the question: Has the time come to seriously consider protecting Chamundi Hill from vehicular traffic? And will a ropeway help?
In recent times, when people look towards Chamundi Hill they see more than just God’s abode wrapped in nature’s green. Now, one also sees concrete structures and garbage. The Hill has succumbed to structures built to pamper irresponsible tourists. And politicians are constantly trying to build structures on the Hill in the name of tourism.
First, it was former Mysuru District Minister (now late) D.T. Jayakumar who suddenly revived the idea of a ropeway across the Hill. Of course, he did not care that a two-kilometre long and 10-metre wide strip of forestland would have to be destroyed to do that.
Then came the grand plan to install ‘Sky Wheel,’ a super-sized giant wheel on the Hill. They even gave it a name — The ‘Mysore Eye.’
Then came B.S. Yediyurappa with a Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and said that Chamundi Hill would be developed on the lines of Tirupati-Tirumala Temple with Guest House and all that commercial filth that overpowers divinity and stinks up serenity.
Then came former Minister S. A. Ramdas, who announced that the 1.5 km stretch from the View Point to the Statue of Mahishasura would be made into a four-lane road!
Then came a plan to install a canopy over the steps — all the way from the foothill to the hilltop. They did not worry that the 1,008 steps which are 350 years old would turn into 1,008 business spots with each step hosting puja paraphernalia sellers, coconut vendors and eateries, all leaving a trail of garbage.
But no other projects keep getting a new lease of life like the ropeway project. Just two years ago the then District Minister V. Somanna too renewed the call for a ropeway and he had said that a ropeway is expensive but will go ahead.
Back then because of the landslide some thought maybe it was a good idea if it would stop vehicles from going up the hill spewing smoke and noise.
Of course, any construction on the Hill is a terrible idea, but should we allow vehicles to drive up the winding roads spewing smoke and chips packets or force people to leave their garbage and vehicles at the foothill and take public transport instead?
After all these years has the time come to find another means of transport to go up the Hill? And is cable car or ropeway the best?
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. Both are international tourist destinations. And in both places tourists are forced to take the funicular, a kind of a 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 either take this funicular or walk up the steps or the road. In fact, one of the funiculars 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.
If this 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 just walk to the funicular or ropeway station to go up the hill. While doing this maybe we can also allow only public electric buses up the Hill and ban all private vehicles.
Now, what about 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 Minister is wrong when he says “We will take up the ropeway project at Chamundi Hill in such a way that it will not spoil the atmosphere.” It will not only spoil the “atmosphere” but also spoil the “environment” and “ambiance” at the foot of Chamundi Hill. But I guess it is better to ruin the foot of the hill than the hill itself.
But not to worry, every time someone has mentioned ropeway, they end up being on their way out of political power. Let us see if this trend continues.
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