Come Saturday the scenic Mullayanagiri hills with its highest peak in Karnataka receive tourists in massive numbers from Bengaluru and neighboring states of Kerala and Tamilnadu. With no regulation on the entry or the number of vehicles or people visiting the ranges, tourism here has turned unruly and dangerous while the district authorities are happily keeping mum. The hill ranges are part of Western Ghats which has been declared as one of the World’s Biodiversity Hot Spots.
When Green Minute visited the hills that are 6000 feet above the sea level, youngsters mostly from Bengaluru could be seen speeding and driving rashly on their bikes/high end cars on the curving and high ranges. Many groups even had digressed from the normal trekking routes and were found partying and drinking on the pristine shola forests in the Western Ghats.
In fact, from Friday evening to Sunday evening, the tourist fall is so huge that it is unmanageable with local people finding it difficult. Every road leading to the ranges are blocked either way with nobody willing to cooperate or have a care for Mother Nature. Forest officials say with only a few shola forest patches amid the massive revenue lands on these hills under their management, it was not possible to regulate.
Chikkamagaluru honorary Wildlife Warden G Veeresh adds, “Mullayanagiri is a very unique ecosystem and home to a few tigers. Thousands of tourists visit the ranges during weekends and the result; it’s a big mess with traffic jams rampant in Mullayanagiri and the narrow winding road to Seethalaianagiri. There is no restriction either on vehicles or tourists. Further, there is a local lobby which hires jeeps in large numbers as also hundreds of buses from Kerala adding to the mess. From Chikkamagaluru to Mullayanagiri, they use local jeeps and tempo tracks with nobody to put a cap.”
Since there is a no restriction on the number of tourists, they go around hill tops and forest areas comprising shola forest. City dwellers can be found holding birthday parties and many such events in the mountain ranges and dumping all the waste that ensues from their merry making. In fact the Wildcat-C – a local NGO has tried its best to clean up the place and collect the garbage but this is a yeomen task for one group. Both forest and police departments have completely failed in regulating tourism, adds Veeresh.
Many have been found drinking and littering the ranges with plastic and glass waste while the proliferation of vendors on the ranges has added to the problem. “There is an urgent need to regulate the entry of vehicles and maybe, ban private vehicles. Authorities can run limited services to Mullayanagiri. Added to this the authorities are planning to add tourist facilities between Mullayanagiri and Seetalayyanagiri road,” says D V Girish, wildlife conservationist.
However, district authorities are still mulling to bring in any kind of regulation whether be it the number of private vehicles that can be allowed to go up till Seethalaianagiri or the number of people. They say any restriction on the number of private vehicles would hit the local people hard who are running regular services morning and evening.
Part of the Bababudangiri ranges, Mullayanagiri is located at a height of 1930 meters above sea level and witnesses more than 2000 vehicles on any weekend. Although the single road can accommodate only one vehicle at a time, vehicles including jeeps/luxury cars/SUVs and high end bikes zoom in fast and rash – every weekend. Blaming the IT crowd from Bengaluru, local residents say they are responsible for the inordinate rush and never ending traffic jams to Mullayanagiri and showing no concern or care for its fragile ecosystem.