A mountain of woes

A mountain of woes
Nature-lovers and the active cycling and running communities in the City who regularly go to Nandi Hills to train are now dismayed by the state of affairs around the area.

The road beyond Kalanidhi Circle, after the Nandi Bull Statue, which is a steep climb towards the fort, is ridden with woes. Problems like bumper to bumper traffic, excessive trash and hooliganism are increasing by the day. A petition was recently started by cyclist Arvind Bhateja, which is a plea and cry to the Ministry of Tourism, Karnataka, to ban motorised vehicles from entering that stretch. The petition is currently doing rounds on social media and has garnered about 500 signatures.

People are clearly saddened by the fact that despite the Hills coming under ‘protected forest land’, it is still being vandalised. Arvind says, “Cycling up the rough road requires a lot of effort. There is a certain rhythm that cyclists maintain as they progress since they time themselves. However, the traffic, trash and hooliganism makes it impossible for cyclists and walkers to venture there. Just 1.5 kms off the hill is the choc-o-bloc road. There are drunk people who shout and misbehave. So many women want to run and cycle there too but it’s not safe. Alcohol bottles, shards of glass and food packets lie strewn around the area. Drivers also randomly park their vehicles and people drive recklessly, and many on the wrong side.”

This petition calls for government-owned buses to ferry people in batches and provide parking spots for private vehicles at the base of the hill. He adds, “This will allow the road to be opened only for pedestrians and non-motorised transport and also help preserve the protected forest land from vandalism. We also have to ban plastic and alcohol there.” He says that one of his friends who left the City last month around 3 am to reach Nandi Hills at 6 am couldn’t get past the checkpoint because of the traffic. “The Horticultural Department has banned the entry of vehicles from 10 pm to 6 am but he still couldn’t get past that road. That is when I realised that it’s important to reach out through social media.”

Apart from the traffic, it’s drivers of the rental cars and those who come to Nandi Hills on weekend getaways that add to the menace. Vivek, founder of SKCT, a professional cycling team, says, “We are looking at this place going to the dogs before our eyes. The road to Nandi Hills is a winding one and driving there is not for everyone. I also saw a lot of rented cars which were very obviously being driven by people who didn’t know how to handle vehicles in such a road. Many people stop in blind spots just to take pictures. There are also so many restaurants that are coming up sporadically and illegally, adding to so much pollution.”

The problem is more than what meets the eye. It doesn’t stop at heavy traffic or vandalism; the woes at Nandi kills the spirit of a cycling community as a whole. Vivek adds that he used to train thrice regularly, every week, at Nandi Hills but now doesn’t go there anymore.” Nikhil says, “I run a cycling store and such problems have increased over the last six months. I know a lot of people who have had second thoughts from going to Nandi Hills. They either go on weekdays or prefer to train elsewhere.” Arvind Bharathi, another signatory of the petition shares his woes. “I took part in a cycle race last year which involved climbing Nandi Hills. This was on a Sunday morning. We cycled for about 500 kms before hitting the climb. However, I had an injury so I got onto a support vehicle and followed the cyclists to the top. Throughout the stretch, there were motor cars and vehicles driving recklessly.”

Vivek dreams of a paradise hill where walkers, cyclists and trekkers can enjoy its music. Arvind Bhateja says, “It’s a joy that a hill like Nandi Hills is so close and accessible to the public. I travel outside the country and there is a lot of care taken to preserve their biodiversity. We should consider ourselves lucky. There needs to be a change in the way law looks at Nandi Hills.”

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