Save Nandi Hills from ruin

Save Nandi Hills from ruin

Quarrying, excessive tourismen danger biodiversity, heritage

Representative image. Credit; DH file photo

The recent landslide on Bengaluru’s popular tourist spot Nandi Hills should be a warning call to the government which has permitted stone quarrying and crushing activities in the vicinity, ignoring protests from environmentalists. Though authorities blame heavy rains that lashed the area non-stop for over six hours, greens say rampant quarrying and deforestation have destabilised the soil leading to the incident. Unless this is stopped, there could be a threat to other hillocks as well, leading to a catastrophe similar to the one in Kodagu a few years ago. The landslide of such a magnitude, the first such incident in recent memory, washed away a part of the road, though, fortunately, no lives were lost or private property damaged. In Kodagu, hundreds of acres of coffee estates were buried under the mud with many losing their lives, but the government has done nothing to check the unbridled flow of tourists who far exceed the district’s carrying capacity. Authorities have also failed to put brakes on construction activities that destroy the natural contours of the landscape besides loosening the soil.

Unless the administration takes some corrective steps, Nandi Hills, which faces the onslaught of excessive tourism and uncontrolled developmental activities, may meet the same fate. The Hills, which is a popular destination given its proximity to Bengaluru, attracts thousands of tourists, especially on weekends. Many of the tourists have scant respect for their surroundings and litter the entire area, leaving around 30 tonnes of trash, mainly plastic and liquor bottles, on its precincts every year. The Hills are believed to be the origin of six rivers, including Arakavathy. But today, the hilltop and foothills face an acute shortage of drinking water as most water sources have dried up due to rapid urbanisation or have become polluted. Environmentalists have suggested that all encroachments should be cleared, lakes revived and flow channels cleaned up, but the government has adopted the easy way out by deciding to draw water from Bengaluru.

Nandi Hills, which had all along been maintained as a biodiversity spot by the horticulture department, has now been handed over to the tourism department. It is also home to a fortress built by the Ganga dynasty and was later strengthened by Tipu Sultan. Considered impregnable, the fort was stormed by Lord Cornwallis in 1791 during the first of the three wars against Tipu, a significant development in history. In 1986, the Hills also hosted the SAARC summit. While there is nothing wrong in promoting sustainable tourism, the government should, at the same time, maintain the ecological balance and protect the character of the hills as a historical and heritage centre.

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