The state government’s proposal to widen the road to the iconic Chamundi Hills has stirred up the hornet’s nest with citizen groups and environmentalists opposing the move tooth and nail.
The Siddaramaiah government, in a gazette notification dated April 28, 2016, has cleared the diversion of 0.98 hectares of forest land (from the City Circle to Mahishasura statue — nearly 1.4 kilometres) in the Chamundi Hills for the widening of the existing road. The notification diverting the forest land to the Executive Engineer, Public Works Department, has been issued under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Criticising the proposal, Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP) President Dr R Chandra Prakash has stated that the government move will spell a disaster. The government, in the name of development and tourism promotion is destroying the natural beauty of the hills, said Bhamy Shenoy, also from MGP.
“This step is surely going to be a “road to ruins” as far as Chamundi Hills is concerned. Since there are more than four roads leading to and from the hills they can easily declare one ways to reduce the traffic flow,” Chandra Prakash has stated.
“The best solution to heavy traffic is to prevent vehicles from going atop the hills and provide bus service to the pilgrims like it is practiced during Aashada peak season. The proposed multi-storied parking now being proposed on the top of the hills could have been alternatively located at the foothills itself. This would have protected the ecology of this hill, which is of both religious and environmental importance to the city,” he added.
On its part, the MGP has already written to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah urging him to prevent the environmental damage and the havoc it will cause on the fragile ecosystem.
“I feel that you might have been misinformed about the need for such a highway by your experts and officials. Everywhere in the world with heightened awareness of the need for sustainability and the catastrophic impact of climate change every effort is made to preserve the natural beauty of a place like Chamundi and not interfere like constructing a road,” the MGP’s letter to the CM stated.
The MGP also plans to file a Public Interest Litigation in the Karnataka High Court and has also appealed to the MLAs to convince the chief minister to drop the highway project.
Speaking to City Today, environmentalist Dr Vasanthkumar Mysoremath said that the government move was shocking. “It will be suicidal and will destroy the precious and rare flora and fauna. The government move, without consulting the people’s wishes, is an arrogant one. Politicians are misusing their mandate,” he said.
“The terrain of Mysuru is flat and the Chamundi Hills is a godsend natural spot. Commercialising the hills in the name of development is unfortunate. The government must take steps to prevent greenery and sadly, the only green belt of Mysuru is a victim of rampant encroachment,” he added.
Ramadas’ statement favouring highway
When BJP government led by Yeddyurappa was in power, the then Medical Education Minister S A Ramadas, in 2012, had announced in Mysuru that he wanted to convert the road from Mysuru leading up to Chamundi hills into a four-lane one apart from constructing a shopping complex atop the hills.Ramadas’ statement drew widespread criticism especially from environmentalists who argued that the Chamundi Hills was a home to various species of birds and insects who play a major part in maintaining the sanctity of the place. The issue that was silent all these years has suddenly got prominence now with the gazette notification.