Madikeri: People of Kodagu who are genuinely concerned about its future and protection of its distinct identity have always voiced their concern over migration of its original settlers to other districts and states in large numbers during the past decades.
With the younger generation opting for greener pastures in IT and other lucrative sectors and also on account of issues in managing the labour sector, the seniors have been selling their property and settiling in bigger cities.
Affluent individuals and business groups from other states have grabbed the opportunity and settled in the district with large investments. This has been giving the original settlers a feeling of being pushed to a minority status.
Colonel (Retired) C P Muthanna, president of the Coorg Wildlife Society, has expressed his anguish at the latest business trend among certain such groups which keep buying large coffee estates, with an expanse over hundreds of acres in Kodagu, at fancy prices.
Such estates are being tattered into pieces of 2 acres each and sold off at a large profit margin to allow building of independent villas. The topography of Kodagu is not meant for such real estate development. This would certainly be detrimental not only to ecology of the district but also to its distinct identity.
Addressing a media meet here last week, Col Muthanna said that coffee estates spawling over hundreds of acres located in Suntikoppa, Ammatti, Kushalnagar, Garwale and other places are being bought by some business groups. Clubhouses, swimming pools and seven-star facilities are being made available there.
Stating categorically that Kodagu did not need such culture, he expressed fears that at this rate, the coffee estates would totally vanish from the district. Minor brooks and streams inside the estates, which are source of water by eventually joining river Cauvery, are being choked or blocked by building tanks and barrages. This would ultimately lead to ecological imbalance. Besides, heavy influx of outsiders into the district would destroy the ethnicity of the land, he said. He appealed to the people of the district not to allow such a development.
Several appeals to stop this trend have been made to the district administration in the past but there was no proper response. Hence, said Col Muthanna, it had been decided to take to legal recourse. He also informed that certain projects in the district needed investigation.
Prominent among them are constructions by India Builders in Kodagarahalli gram panchayat jurisdiction, conversion of agricultural wet land for commercial purpose by Prakrithy Infrastructure Development Company and Arjun Balasubramanyam in Bychanahalli village in Somwarpet taluk, constructions by Mount Rose Company and Anil Joseph at Garwale in Madapur, construction of a layout in Karmad village on the Ammatti-Hosur road and others.
He also gave a call to the people of Kodagu to be watchful. If any unauthorized construction activity was found, they must take up the matter immediately with their gram panchayat and also inform the taluk panchayat and the deputy commissioner. He also urged the district administration to issue suitable instructions to all gram panchayats and taluk panchayats to ensure that no unauthorized construction activity in their respective jurisdiction was allowed.
He revealed that the CWS had a two-pronged strategy; on one hand it would raise awareness and oppose the destruction of Kodagu whenever any unwanted project came to light. For the long term, the CWS was now compiling data through RTI on the extent of land in Kodagu that has come in for conversion during the past ten years, and also the ‘development projects’ such as national highway and railway line etc being planned through Kodagu. This information would be used to to approach the court to declare entire Kodagu as an Eco-sensitive Zone under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act.
Speaking exclusively to this website, Col Muthanna said, “Kodagu is the principal catchment of river Cauvery and it is very important to protect Kodagu landscape from rampant urbanization. However, we find that there is a trend to go in for illegal and unauthorized constructions and building activity in Kodagu. Four such instances have come to our notice, where it appears that constructions have been taken up without proper clearances and procedures.”
Speaking further he said, “We had taken up the matter with former DC Anurag Tewary. He had directed AC Satish Kumar to look into these constructions and take appropriate action. Satish Kumar has confirmed that he will investigate and will keep us informed”.
(Coordinated by Richard Lasrado)