The environment of Kodagu is being destroyed at an alarming rate. With many destructive development projects planned, the landscape of Kodagu is being destroyed, endangering the indigenous communities. In this article, President of Coorg Wildlife Society Colonel (Retd.) C.P. Muthanna looks at three aspects: The importance of protecting Kodagu landscape and environment, the threats and the solution. —Ed
By Col. (Retd.) C.P. Muthanna
Opposition to environmentalists: It is unfortunate that there are a group of people in Kodagu who are totally opposed to environmentalists in Kodagu and who always object to any measures that could protect the Kodagu environment and landscape. They term all environmentalists as fake environmentalists who are thriving on foreign funds.
These people have opposed any move to protect Kodagu such as Greater Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Buffer Zone to Nagarahole National Park, UNESCO Heritage Site for Western Ghat Forests of Kodagu, recommendations of Madhav Gadgil report and recommendations of Kasturirangan Report. However, they are fully in support of 400 KV power line through Kodagu, railway line, Barapole hydro project, etc.
Our Home Minister and Minister in-charge of Kodagu district declared that he would not allow even one inch of Kodagu to be designated as Eco Sensitive Zone. When he declares that he will not allow even one inch of Kodagu to be declared as Eco Sensitive Zone, he is actually saying that he, with origins in Kerala, will not allow even one inch of Kodagu to be protected. This is our situation!
We need to develop in a sensible manner so that there is encouragement for coffee production, agriculture, etc. and the land, culture and traditions of the indigenous communities are protected while ensuring their financial security.
Some people want to keep on harping about development in Kodagu. I want to ask them how Kodagu was 25 years ago and how it is today. At this rate of destruction, what will be the fate of Kodagu 10 years from now? The Cauvery in Kushalnagar runs black with filth. The Lakshmanatheertha has been killed by sand mining. Lakhs of trees have been felled. The beautiful paddy fields of Kodagu have become ugly sites and layouts. Even sacred groves are not being spared. When will development in Kodagu be complete? When all the trees have gone? When all the rivers and streams are killed by pollution and sand mining? When Kodagu becomes a huge slum and the indigenous communities are totally marginalised and gradually destroyed?
Madhav Gadgil Report
During 2011, The Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel under Prof. Madhav Gadgil had recommended that all the three Taluks of Kodagu should be declared as an Eco Sensitive area. The Government then set up the Kasturirangan High Level Western Ghats Panel to review the Madhav Gadgil report. At that time, Coorg Wildlife Society had made recommendations to the Kasturirangan Committee where we had asked for the Madhav Gadgil Panel recommendations to be implemented with certain modifications.
If our politicians had agreed to the recommendations with certain conditions, we would not have been in this terrible state today. We could have avoided the Kerala power line and Kongana Project and Railway link through Kodagu and we would not have seen this amount of dirt and garbage. However, the elected representative warned people against this report and opposed it vehemently.
The total money for the railway lines and national highways would be perhaps over Rs. 3,000 crore. While thousands of crores are available to destroy Kodagu, marginalise indigenous communities and degrade the flow of River Cauvery, there is no money to mitigate human elephant conflict, to establish Ecological Unit for Kodagu, to restore the degraded Kodagu forests and to provide financial security to the communities of Kodagu for protecting the Kodagu landscape. We have to unite to fight this injustice.
What is the way forward?
Kodagu must be protected to ensure that Cauvery can provide sufficient water for downstream users. The Kongana River project is being planned because there is insufficient water in Lakshmanatheertha to sustain Hunsur. The Kongana Dam will again result in the submergence of more land in Kodagu, further destroying green cover. This will increase human-animal conflict and further reduction in rainfall. This will again result in demands for more projects for building dams in Kodagu.
If Kodagu continues to be exploited in this manner, the day is not far away when Kodagu will no longer be the catchment for River Cauvery and River Cauvery itself may cease to have any significant flow. The indigenous communities will also be headed for extinction due to the destruction of their homeland.
If we do not take strong and urgent action, Kodagu will continue to be urbanised and projects through Kodagu will continue to tear through the forests, coffee estates and paddy fields. In another ten to twenty years there will be no Kodagu left. Is this what we want our children to inherit from us?
The fact is that Kodagu will continue to be ravaged until it is totally destroyed. The only hope is to get legal safeguard for Kodagu by having the entire Kodagu district declared as an eco-sensitive area under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act. There is absolutely no other way that Kodagu can be saved.
Kodagu’s environment is important not only for us but also for the residents of the cities down-stream and especially for the poor farmers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Thousands of farmers from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu caught in the web of drought and debt are forced to commit suicide. We must spare a thought for them and for the plight of their families.