Greater Talacauvery great bane for people?

A view of Western Ghats. DH PHOTO

The Western Ghats comprise the mountain range that runs along the western coast of India, from the Vindhya-Satpura ranges in the north to the southern tip. Many traibals and farmers have been living adjacent to the forest for centuries. However, now a proposed move to set up Greater Talacauvery with support from UNESCO, has drawn flak from farmers, NGOs and general public in the district.

The project as conceptualized now aims at combining three wildlife sanctuaries at Brahmagiri, Talacauvery and Pushpagiri as one contiguous area and is likely to affect nearly 120 villages in Karnataka and northern Kerala, who face potential threat of displacement.

Speaking to City Herald, Mangalore Centre of Malenadu Joint Action Committee President Pradeep Kumar K L said that assurances by the authorities of rehabilitation of affected people could not be believed as people do not enjoy land rights on their present holdings.

When the government has failed in providing rehabilitation properly to those who were displaced from Kudremukh forest even to this day, it is very difficult to believe that 2.20 lakh people in these 120 villages would be given justice.

The proposal aims to combine Bhrahmagiri (181.5 sq km), Talacauvery (105 sq km), and Pushpagiri (102 sq km) along with contiguous village, district, reserve and protected forests (800 sq km).

Bringing together the elephant corridor and bio-diversity centre projects of Unesco with Greater Talacauvery project will have its own implications for all. Forest conservation should be done locally and not as a contiguous block, he said.

Terming the project as a “billion-dollar scheme” conceived at the behest of capitalists, he said in the name of protection of forests and development, big resorts, and animal safaris are coming up. Major estates of about 33,000 hectare land owned by powerful individuals in these tracts of land have been exempted from the purview of the project. However, the project would affect economically weaker section of the people.

Kumar said the Greater Talacauvery proposal was mooted on the request of the Green Bench of the Supreme Court.

“People in the villages will lose rights over their lands, right to possess firearms, and tribal will lose their cultural heritage and traditional habitat.”

He said on the other hand the government has allowed the power projects to come up at Kempuhole and Addahole by sacrificing hundreds of acre forest land. The elephant corridor project is unscientifically taken up as about eight dams built along the elephant corridor are obstructing movement of pachyderms. If there was blockade, then where is elephant corridor? he asks.

People in the villages on the periphery of forests in Puttur and Belthangady will be badly affected due to the project. Several villages in Kodagu, Chikmagalur, Hassan, Shimoga, Uttara kannada, and Udupi districts would be displaced in large numbers. In Dakshina Kannada, over 50,000 people will be displaced.

It is the people who live in periphery of forest who have been protecting the forest all these years. If the project is implemented, then no development activities can be taken up in 10 km radius of the sanctuary.

“We are not against environment protection. But do not include our revenue villages under the project and involve people’s participation in the protection of forest,” he says.

In the meantime, the Raitha Hitharakshana Vedike in Kollamogra and Kalmakaru in Subrahmanya have started protest by holding public meetings and vehicle rally to create awareness among the farmers on the ill conceived project. The farmers fear that if the project is implemented, they will have to lose all their land which they have been cultivating for generations. The culture, tradition, language of the people will be hit.

Kumar said the plantation owners in Somwarpet, Kundalli, Bisle, Kaginere, Talacauvery, Sringeri, Mudigere will also be united against the proposed project soon.

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