by GREEN MINUTE NEWS
The development of Rail Network in the hill district of Kodagu has always been a contentious issue. With a new rail link sanctioned between Mysuru-Kushalnagar and if further expanded to Thalaserry, it is expected to pass through Kutta, Kanoor, Balele and Thithimathi in Kodagu traversing verdant forests and the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. Also, the four laning of NH-275 between Mysuru-Madikeri being taken up on priority has angered and shocked green activists.
If environmentalists and scientific experts have opposed the rail project and said it would be an ecological disaster as Kodagu district itself is the catchment area for River Cauvery, elected representatives have supported linear projects and said it is much needed for fulfilling the needs of tourists and pilgrims.
Presently, the clearance of the 87.20 kilometer long broad gauge rail link between Mysuru-Kushalnagar has come as a rude shock to many Kodavas and activists as Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha had all along promised support for their green concerns in this eco-fragile district that was racked by landslides and unprecedented flood last year.
In a letter to the Railway Minister, Simha in fact, has urged him to make allocations for the project under the ‘Umbrella Works of New Lines’. He further states although the preliminary engineering cum traffic survey was completed long back, a comprehensive report was submitted only in May this year to south western railways. Kodagu is an important tourist destination because of its scenic beauty, pleasant weather and coffee plantations. We also have a robust infrastructure to cope up with the growing number of tourists not only domestic but also overseas. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit throughout the year. Unfortunately, Coorg is the only district in Karnataka not on the railway map and it is high time it was part of the vast network of Indian railways.”
Activists add, “In fact, in response to prime minister’s observation on water conservation in ‘Man Ki Baat’ Simha had tweeted, “I wrote a letter to Gram Pradhans on the importance of water conservation and how to take steps to create awareness on the subject across rural India. If he really believes in this, he should stop linear infrastructure projects in Kodagu. We want our trees and rivers, not tourists.”
Sundar Muthana questions the MP, “If you value water, stop the highway expansion and rail line in Kodagu which will cut lakhs of trees and kill the Cauvery. Are you MP Mysore-Kodagu, or Kerala?”
Joseph Hoover, Member, United Conservation Movement adds, “Simha seems hell bent on having his way. Obviously, there is some hidden interest. Kodagu is reeling under the onslaught of excessive tourism. As per records, more than 14 lakh people visited the district during 2017-18. Infrastructure is inadequate to meet the demands, in spite of flourishing home stays and resorts. We are all aware of what happened last August. Images of the destruction wreaked by unprecedented floods which triggered fatal landslides still give us nightmares.”
Experts attributed the devastating catastrophe to rampant, unscientific development, he adds. “The MP should realize that Kodagu cannot be plundered in the name of tourism. Linear projects will destroy the ecologically sensitive district. As it is, we are being ruthlessly challenged frequently with extreme weather conditions, triggered by climate change.”