Madikeri: Kodagu has been a green paradise from time immemorial. All through its history, it has been coveted by the greedy eyes of different reigns and powers.
But under their rule, there was at least no harm to the environment. On the other hand, those ruling dispensations promoted agriculture and forest produce. The nature-worship concept prevalent in the region too may have contributed to the conservation of the greenery.
What a contrast one comes across today! The district is being denuded of its forests and its water resources are depleted, all in the name of development, modernization and tourism promotion.
A small number of individuals and forums have been expressing their outcry against this mad mayhem. Yet, there seems to be no check on the destruction. Slowly, a good number of organizations appear to have got around the idea of getting their act together, with a view to making a concerted and collective effort to stop the environmental holocaust.
Under compulsions of business or employment avenues available, a large number of Kodavas (or Coorgs) have settled in other cities, Bengaluru and Mysuru in particular. But they have retained their sense of belonging and ethnic entity by getting together to form their own Kodava Samajas (associations) at their current domiciles. They gather and celebrate their festivals or hold events like marriages, away from home.
Despite living away from Kodagu, a large majority of Kodavas have their pulses beating for their native territory and hence keep tabs on the happenings back home. River Cauvery, which has its genesis in Talacauvery in the southwestern corner of the district, is the lifeline for the residents. The same river flows eastwards through Mandya and Mysuru districts, ultimately to join the Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu.
Hence the river is of vital importance to all the basin areas downstream. Unfortunately, the rivulets and streams that enrich the water resources in Kodagu face extinction because of the haphazard real estate development.
As part of promoting awareness about the need to conserve river Cauvery as the lifeline supporting the population living on and around its banks and basin, two eco-conscious biking clubs and environmental activists from Bengaluru organized a bike rally from Bengaluru to Madikeri around the weekend.
The riding clubs that took part in the rally are Bengaluru Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club and Free Spirits Motorcycling Club.
The motive was to pay tribute to the trees in the district which nurture and sustain the Cauvery river, which is also Bengaluru’s main source for water. The organizers said that their work, families and the whole way of life were strongly attached to river Cauvery. For them Cauvery or Kaveramma is a deity which sustains their life and future.
It was a collective venture of the Kodava Samajas of Bengaluru, Mysuru and Madikeri, Coorg Wildlife Society and Kodavaame – Bengaluru. (The last-mentioned organization is a staunch advocate of preserving Kodava language, literature, culture, rituals and traditions.)
It was supported in Madikeri by some other organizations like Green City Forum, Kaveri Sene, Kaveri Hitarakshana Vedike, United Kodava Organization (UKO), Y’s Men’s Club and Save Kodagu, among others.
The bikers, escorted and piloted by a few four-wheelers, left Bengaluru in the early hours on Saturday. They were joined by more participants and enthusiasts in Mysuru and Kushalnagar. Just around noon, they reached the outskirts of Madikeri and stopped over at Aranya Bhavan, the divisional headquarters of the department of forests.
A memorandum pointing out the high temperature, erratic rainfall and how a heavy ecological price was being paid on account of continued tree loss was submitted to assistant conservator of forests P A Seema. She gave them a patient hearing and assured the delegation that their sentiments would be conveyed to the higher-ups.
The charter of demands sought stopping of felling of trees on both revenue and forest land, planting of fruit-bearing tree saplings in the forests, support to NGOs working for the protection of river Cauvery, stopping of the laying of new railway line to Kodagu, dropping of plans of unnecessary expansion of roads in Kodagu, but, instead, simply maintain existing roads in vehicle-worthy condition and to ensure that the future generations would get to enjoy Cauvery water.
Kodavaame convener Udianda Roshan Somanna spoke to the media and explained the Kodavas’ concern over tree-felling which had already resulted in the slump on rainfall and unprecedented warming in Kodagu. Kimmudira Ravi Chengappa of Kaveri Sene also spoke on saving Cauvery, Kodagu and its environment. The motorcade then proceeded to the deputy commissioner’s office.
A human chain was formed in a disciplined way, ensuring that no traffic or human movement was disturbed. Deputy commissioner Mir Anees Ahmed met the delegation outside the premises and listened to their demands. He too assured that the list of demands would be forwarded to the competent authorities.
By a fortuitous but fortunate coincidence, MLC V S Ugrappa, who is also the chairman of the state expert committee on prevention of atrocities against women and children, happened to enter the DC’s office premises on other official work. The delegation also spoke to him and requested him to use his good offices to save Cauvery, Kodagu and the trees.
It was also explained to him how the proposed plan to lay a railway line to the district would wreak havoc on the forest growth and coffee plantations, while already over a lakh of trees in the lush-green forests of Kodagu had been felled to facilitate the high-tension power line from Kaiga in Uttar Kannada to Kozhikode in Kerala, which was of least benefit to the residents of the districts.
The rallyists and participants included, besides U Roshan Somanna of Kodavaame, Kaveri Sene convener K Ravi Chengappa, Cheyyanda Satya of Green City Forum, Kodava Samaja vice president Mandepanda Ratan Kuttaiah, Muddanda B Devaiah of Kaveri Hitarakshana Vedike, Dr Telapanda Cariappa who has settled in Australia and but had come all the way to be present, Kokkalemada Manju Chinnappa of United Kodava Organization (UKO), Mandettira Thimmaiah, Barianda Sunil Karumbaiah, Mallengada Niran Somanna, Padeyanda Deepak Devaiah, Mukkatira Mac Thimmaiah, Pandanda Kavera and many others.
A striking feature of the rally was the participation of women and children in the rally. The cynosure of everyone’s eye was Bollandanda Pearl Muthamma, aged 2 years and 11 months, who accompanied her parents Bollandanda Pavan Biddappa and Bollandanda Bollamma Machaiah of the Free Spirits Motorcycling Club, all the way from Bengaluru, bearing and daring the harsh sun.
They were joined by other members of both bikers’ clubs Manavatira Niran Bheemaiah, Cheyakpoovanda Pavi Aiyappa, Adengada Gagan Ganapathi and Anjapanda Kiran Erappa, Mandepanda Sagar, Nandineravanda Praveen, Machimanda Amrit Appaiah, Col C P Muthanna of the Coorg Wildlife Society and other office-bearers, Shashi Hosabeedu of Somwarpet, Kolatanda Raghu Machaiah, Mandeyanda Kumar of Virajpet, Ram Devaiah of Kushalnagar, Bollajira Aiyappa of Kodava Makkada Koota and others.
Pics by Ramachandra / Impact