Unchecked plunder of Kodagu

Unchecked plunder of Kodagu

Coorg

Kodagu is yet to recover from the devastation of last year’s landslides and floods that led to enormous loss of life and property, but the state government, instead of applying the healing balm, has been sanctioning one project after another, which is certain to spell doom for the district. The latest is the clearance given by the forest department to fell 800 trees at the landslide-prone K Nidugani village at the behest of Karnataka Housing Board, which locals suspect is a ploy to lay the ground for a luxury resort. Though Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has now put a stop to this, 100 trees have already been axed. However, in the case of another resort at Modur village where cottages are being built on hill slopes and a stream has been illegally diverted to convert wetlands into a lake for boating, Kumaraswamy has maintained a studied silence despite several representations from the Coorg Wildlife Society. A boarding school spread across 100 acres, being set up in the district by a corporate entity, has also attracted widespread condemnation from the local populace, but no response from the government.

While tourism sustains the livelihood of the people, who were hitherto solely dependent on uncertain agricultural income, excessive tourism is taking a heavy toll on this ecologically sensitive district nestled in the Western Ghats. The perils of over-tourism are being felt the world over. Boracay Island in central Philippines had to be shut down for six months after the infrastructure crumbled under the weight of over-tourism. In Thailand, Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Island was closed for regeneration after 80% of coral reefs were destroyed due to tourist overload. In Venice, tourist inflow has led to a sharp increase in house rentals, forcing the original inhabitants to shift to other, less expensive locations. Kodagu may not far behind if steps are not taken to control the tourist inflow, which is now much beyond the fragile district’s carrying capacity.

The unchecked plunder of Kodagu, even after nature sounded the warning bells last year, points to an unholy alliance between the state government, the district administration and politicians, including the BJP MLAs from the district who have so far not raised a whimper of protest. The people of Kodagu also have themselves to blame because they have been totally lax and equally fragmented when it comes to fighting for their own cause. They have been taken for a ride by politicians for far too long and unless they wake up and unite, the district may soon have more concrete structures than trees.

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