Get environment clearance for Chamundi Hills works: DC

Deputy Commissioner asks PWD officials to obtain Environment Management Plan before starting development works atop the Chamundi Hills.

Deputy Commissioner C Shikha has ordered the officials from the Public Works Department (PWD) to start the development works atop the iconic Chamundi Hills only after obtaining environment clearance. In other words, the PWD has to obtain Environment Management Plan (EMP) before starting development works.

“Till environment clearance is received, only back office work, survey work and jungle clearance works be taken up. Other work to start only after environment clearance is received,” the DC’s order stated.

The order was passed at a meeting convened at the Deputy Commissioner’s office on Thursday. The meeting was chaired by Shikha and was attended by MCC Commissioner Dr C G Betsurmath, MUDA Commissioner Dr Mahesh, Dr Bhamy V Shenoy of Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP), B S Prashanth from Let’s Do It! Mysore and a host of forest and PWD officials.

At the meeting, the officials told the DC that the land acquired for development was neither government nor forest department land. It is private land acquired for the PWD. And the development site is more than 200 metres away from the heritage temple.

According to rules, an EMP is a must if there is construction or development activity in more than 20,000 sqft. Plus, the total cost of the project should not exceed Rs 50 crore.

“The authorities here have not even applied for an EMP that is sanctioned by the Pollution Control Board. The DC has asked them to get the EMP first and stop the ongoing works on ground,” said B S Prashanth of Lets Do It! Mysore and the CEO of Safe Wheels.

Regarding the road widening, the 1.9 kilometre road from Nandi Circle view point to the top of the hills is proposed to be widened and 198 odd trees have to be cut. “When we raised the issue at the meeting, the DC and other officials said that they had not started the road widening works as of now and the Deputy Conservator of Forests V Karikalan told the meeting that he has not permitted the axing of trees,” Prashanth said.

“We have been insisting on an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) that is far more complex than the EMP,” said Dr Bhamy V Shenoy of the Mysore Grahakara Parishat.

The DC has directed the officials to study in terms of how the proposed parking complex would benefit the public in the longer run. “If the parking complex is constructed keeping in mind the present vehicle population, it is of no use. The authorities must have a realistic assumption if vehicle growth in the coming years as it must not be a stop-gap parking lot,” he said.

The DC was also told that there were only 91 licenced shops atop the hill and the rest 400 odd shops and eateries had no licences.

“We told the Deputy Commissioner that there is a rule of law collapse when it comes to shops atop the hills and the authorities were not even aware of the number of the shops. Concerned by the growing number of unlicensed shops, the DC issued a warning to the Chamundi Hills Village Panchayat that the district administration would be forced to “take over” the Panchayat if they continued to permit mushrooming of shops,” Bhamy Shenoy added.

On the future course of action, he said that with the DC’s order, they had got a breather. “We are already in talks with our lawyers to file a PIL in the Karnataka High Court. We will not wait till the EMP is done and we will knock the court’s doors as soon as possible,” he said.

Reacting to the developments, R Chandra Prakash of the MGP said: “The government must immediately take steps to reverse the damage caused to the Chamundi Hills. I feel the DC’s order is just temporary till the Aashada celebrations gets over. All the orders issued on the so called development of Chamundi Hills must be withdrawn and the hills must be restored to its original shape.

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