A meeting of citizens and stakeholders was held at the Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP) on Friday to discuss the latest government move to widen the road leading to Chamundi Hills where it was felt that the government must honour public opinion and stop vandalising the ecological hotspot. They have demanded a sustainable development of Chamundi Hills. Participants were unanimous in their view that Chamundi Hills, apart from being a religious place, was a unique gift of nature to Mysuru and had a great role in shaping the environmental conditions of the city.
Participants felt that any development plan should be based on the “carrying capacity” of the hill and its environs. Most of the government’s development programmes were propelled by vested interests and were mostly meant for benefitting a given group of business interests. Participants felt that the ‘development plan’ designed for Chamundi Hills was no different from this general trend.
When seen in the present context, (Kurubarahalli and other surrounding area land grab allegations around the hill the emphasis on converting the Krishnaraja Boulevard into a four-lane road despite damage to this heritage area and cutting down hundreds of century-old trees in the process, and the desire of the government to recreate a Tirupati on Chamundi Hills) it does not need a soothsayer to predict the dangerous future awaiting the abode of Chamundi. Grand development plan The Karnataka Chief Minister recently laid the foundation for a grand development plan on the top of the Chamundi Hills involving Rs 80 crore. It had in it a provision for shopping complex, multilevel parking, VIP guest houses, dormitories, canopy for queuing lines, toilets, etc. Interestingly the GO issued recently for widening of the road from City Circle to the Mahishasura Statue was not part of this grand plan, but an additional development plan to be executed by the PWD. Hence, the grand development plan when seen in this context meant total alteration of the top of the Chamundi Hill.
Setting aside the opinion of DCF, Mysuru Participants noted that the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mysore, had refused permission to widen the road to Chamundi Hills both in 2012 and 2014. In Form A, Part II para 13 DCF stated: “The traffic density is very high near Mahishasura Statue on the hill top because of roadside shops and vehicle parking. A patch of revenue land is available close to statue and parking place. This may be acquired by user agency and the traffic may be regulated on the hill top itself rather than expanding the road on the downhill slope which may lead to soil erosion and landslides. Hence, the alternative measure for road extension may be taken up by the user agency rather than widening of the existing road in Chamundi Hill reserve forest”.
However, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Bengaluru, in his note dated 09-10-2014 to Additional Chief Secretary to Government, Forests, Ecology and Environment, MS Building, Bengaluru, having partly quoted the Mysore DCF’s observations, proposed an alternative plan. The note stated: “It is recommended that the proposal for diversion of forest land for widening of road to a width of 5 metres with and additional width to take care of damages to adjacent land, etc. may be considered. The length of the proposed diversion is 1.4 kilometres.” It is obvious that the PCCF was trying to circumvent the restriction of less than 1 hectares forest land usage mandated under the relevant law. It is obvious that the honest opinion of the DCF Mysore was set aside may be under the pressure from the vested interests. Viable and sustainable development plan The participants suggested that the top of the Chamundi Hill should be bereft of any commercial and tourist activities. All the shops, other than catering to the puja activities, should be removed. The movement of private vehicles should be confined to a demarcated land at the foothills as is being done during the Aashada period. Electric buses should be put into use from there to the hill top. If need be, the proposed multilevel parking facility can be located at this demarcated land at the foothills. Example of Hampi is available wherein 2 kilometres area from Vijaya Vittala Temple is no private vehicle zone and only battery driven vehicles are to be used to as shuttle service.
Proposed actions to save Chamundi Hills
It was resolved to Create greater awareness among Mysureans regarding the damage that will be caused to the Chamundi Hills.
To hold a public meeting inviting environmentalists, industrialists and eminent citizens to air their views.
To appeal to National Green Tribunal to stop this destructive plan.
To file a Public Interest Litigation.