'Illegal' widening of road in Male Mahadeshwara Hills raises hackles

'Illegal' widening of road in Male Mahadeshwara Hills raises hackles
The Public Works Department (PWD) has started “widening” the state highway in Male Mahadeshwara Hills (MM Hills) in Chamarajanagar district on the basis of an oral approval received from the Forest Department, angering conservationists.

The road cuts through MM Hills and connects Hanur and Ramapura villages via Ajjipura in Kollegal taluk of the district. The PWD is widening and repairing a 4.5-km stretch of the road.

“It is disheartening that the road is being widened inside MM Hills within the Hanur buffer zone and that too without a formal approval from the authorities concerned,” Shankar, a wildlife conservationist from MM Hills, said.

Upgrading roads inside wildlife sanctuaries requires mandatory approvals from the Karnataka State Wildlife Board and the National Board for Wildlife. The Union government has made it clear that no work in the forest cover will start without the written approval of these boards.

But the authorities of MM Hills have permitted upgrade of the road in the sanctuary without following the rules.

The stretch from Hanur to Ajjipura has dense vegetation on both sides and is home to a significant number of wild animals including elephants, spotted deer and sambar deer.

The existing road itself acts a barrier to the movement of animals.

In separate incidents, two deer have been killed in the past five months.

If the road is widened further, there will be a greater danger to animals from the speeding vehicles. Besides, it would escalate the man-animal conflict, Shankar said.
Forest officials said in-principle clearance was given to the PWD as the existing road was pathetic.

M Malathi Priya, Deputy Conservator of Forests, MM Hills, said the department had communicated to the PWD that the NOC would be given only for repairing the road and not for widening it.

“We also told the PWD that no tree should be pruned or axed and the repair should be only on the existing road,” she added.

Although she said official approval would be given only after a detailed report was submitted, she admitted that work had started in some patches as it was necessary.

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